JHU and McCormick are joining Constellation's big solar energy agreement - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Sep. 20, 2019 12:38 pm

JHU and McCormick are joining Constellation’s big solar energy agreement

The Baltimore energy company reached a 175-megawatt agreement with a solar site coming online in Virginia. Here's how Constellation's Offsite Renewables executive director says it'll work — and why it's a big deal.
Solar panels.

Solar panels.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Constellation said a new agreement to provider renewable energy for three companies — including a pair of well-known names — is the largest of its kind for the Baltimore-based energy company.

Through the agreement, Johns Hopkins University, McCormick & Company and TJX (parent company of T.J. Maxx) committed to purchase solar power over 15 years. With the three large anchors onboard, an agreement followed to purchase solar power and renewable energy credits (RECs) from Skipjack Solar Center, a new plant being developed in Charles City County, Virginia, that’s expected to come online in 2021.

The power will be purchased through a product known as Constellation’s Offsite Renewables (CORe).

“Corporations are eager to do their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to cleaner forms of energy, and Constellation is committed to providing clean energy solutions that help them meet their goals,” said Jim McHugh, CEO of Constellation. “This major CORe agreement helps to remove the barriers that stand between companies and their sustainability goals, for the sake of good business — and for the benefit of our environment.”

CORe is designed to allow corporations to tap into renewable energy that’s coming from large solar sites, said Benjamin Chadwick, Constellation’s executive director of CORe. A big company or institution has power needs that go beyond what rooftop solar could provide. But they can’t take title to a whole solar farm, per federal regulations. And most institutions aren’t big enough to need an entire farm anyway.

“These projects are located on large plots of land offsite where the economics for building those projects are more attractive, and I think we’ve created a transactional structure and a contract structure that allows us to make those large offsite utilities’ scale available to a collection or aggregate of users through a retail power agreement,” Chadwick said.

"McCormick is honored to be a part of the Skipjack solar agreement, which represents a significant move forward in our goal to reduce our carbon footprint across the company."
Lawrence Kurzius, McCormick & Company

In this case, three of these entities are involved, but they didn’t make an agreement all together. Instead, they worked directly with Constellation. With a number of companies willing to make a commitment, Constellation then reached an agreement for 175 megawatts from Skipjack that will allow the companies to purchase energy via the solar sites.

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When JHU and the companies are billed for power, they will be buying “retail power supplied to their meter just like they would any other day,” Chadwick said.

This is distinct from a tool that is commonly used, called a virtual power purchase agreement, which is effectively a financial transaction that represents the purchase of renewable power. It was developed for use by big tech companies who made solar commitments.

“We’ve created a product offering that simplifies the process with a view towards bringing it to everyone else,” he said.

With the approach being used by Constellation, called a physical power purchase agreement, it’s billed as though the energy were delivered directly. This doesn’t mean that there’s a direct line between JHU’s campus and Virginia supplying the power, as such an arrangement doesn’t typically exist in the world of offsite solar power generation, but it’s still billed that way.

Per U.S. Environmental Protection Agency projections, the combined greenhouse gas emissions that will not happen as a result of the deal is equivalent to removing 34,000 passenger cars from the road.

Johns Hopkins had previously announced its commitment as it looks to halve carbon emissions by 2025. The energy will power campuses in Baltimore, including Homewood in North Baltimore, Peabody Institute in Mt. Vernon, Keswick in Hampden and Mount Washington. JHU Applied Physics Lab, located in Laurel, will also purchase project-specific RECs as part of the deal.

McCormick, the Baltimore-founded spicemaker, will power facilities in Maryland, including its Hunt Valley-based corporate headquarters, four manufacturing plants and two distribution centers.

“McCormick is honored to be a part of the Skipjack solar agreement, which represents a significant move forward in our goal to reduce our carbon footprint across the company,” Lawrence Kurzius, CEO of McCormick & Company, said in a statement. “We acknowledge that climate change is a real and pressing problem and we’re committed to doing our part to use renewable energy to combat it.”

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