As Eldorado Artesian Springs grew, the founders looked for opportunities to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. One attractive option: harness abundant sun energy to satisfy the company’s energy needs at its production facility. Jeremy Martin, one of the co-founders, recalls reaching out to a local solar company, Namaste Solar. He learned that his water company couldn’t afford to finance the system on its own. This proved to be an impassable barrier for more than three years.
In early 2009, NexGen Energy stepped in and offered to own the solar facility and sell the energy produced to Eldorado Artesian Springs at a predictable rate for ten years. Within five months, the project was approved, financed, and implemented. Today, Eldorado Artesian Springs has a ~100 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that produces more than 131,000 kilowatthours of energy annually. “Finally,” says Eldorado’s Martin, “we have healthy energy to complement a healthy beverage.”
Owning No Free Ride
Many companies seek out on-site renewables to generate free electricity. Cathy Shoenfeld, CFO of Eldorado, quickly recognized that owning her solar system would not equate to a free ride. First, Eldorado would have had to pay a significant amount up front to purchase the equipment. Then, it would be exposed to costs if equipment failed. “We couldn’t afford either,” she says.
The NexGen Energy model allowed her company to have a facility without the upfront cost or ongoing risk. “Plus,” Shoenfeld adds, “NexGen Energy made it so easy. It was up and running before we knew it and now it is similar to the monthly expense of our utility bill.”
A Reliable Financial Tool
Employees appreciate knowing that 45% of Eldorado’s electricity requirements are delivered by the sun. CFO Shoenfeld appreciates that almost half her company’s electricity will be supplied at a predictable rate for 10 years.
In recent years, the company’s price for energy has increased by as much as seven percent within a given year. That uncertainty has impacted executive decisions, says Shoenfeld. Now, with a significant part of the company’s energy expenditures fixed, executives can focus less on the energy budget and more on growing their business.
NexGen Energy determined it could install two 100 kW wind turbines on the school campus and that the electricity produced would be a good match to the school’s overall load. The school agreed to purchase the energy produced by the turbines at a predictable price for 15 years.
NexGen Energy provides the school access to a web monitoring program that delivers real-time data generated by the wind turbines. It graphically displays data including: wind speed, energy output, and wind direction.
NexGen Energy also sponsored a two-day teacher wind workshop in Boulder, CO – four USV teachers attended. The teachers received hands-on experience with wind energy curriculum.
A Clean Energy Celebration
The turbines were commissioned five months after the contract was signed and just one month after groundbreaking. Upper Scioto Valley Schools held a ribbon cutting for the wind turbines and for its Green Lab/Wind Energy facility that attracted over one hundred and fifty people. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland sent a proclamation commending the school district for its renewable energy leadership. Representatives for the Ohio Department of Development, local Chamber of Commerce and regional universities were among the attendees.
The city’s location next to Lake Erie attracts boaters throughout the summer, but the wind pours off the lake throughout the year. City Manager Robert Schaumleffel recalls general agreement that wind turbines could provide reliable clean energy for the city, but the community had limited financial resources to purchase turbines. “How in the world,” he asked, “could we finance a wind project?”
Eventually, the city connected with NexGen Energy. After careful evaluation, NexGen Energy proposed two turbines, one at a local school and a second at the wastewater treatment plant.
NexGen Energy offered to finance, install and operate the turbines in exchange for a commitment from the city and the school to purchase the electricity generated by the turbines at a predictable rate. Less than six months after the city and the school agreed, both turbines were up and running.
Kent Houston, Superintendent of Conneaut Area School District, noted that the projects actually save the city money. The electricity rates offered by NexGen Energy were lower than the electric utility rates. NexGen Energy’s involvement allowed the city and the school to realize these cost savings without having to pay for the expensive turbines with their limited funding.
Excitement in the Community
The whole community has been energized by the projects, according to Eric Nesbitt of the Port Authority. Many residents have praised the project, the school has collaborated with NexGen Energy to integrate wind education in the classroom and the city has planned a summertime 5K race to celebrate the wind turbines. Some boaters even use the tall wind turbines for navigation. Superintendent Houston remarked, “It has been a little glimmer of hope for our community.“