Some Mid-Atlantic developers and property managers recently have formed a green energy buying group to purchase wind power to offset 10 percent to 20 percent of their aggregate electricity usage at 76 multifamily developments in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Developers Homes for America, Osprey Development, and Severn Construction Co. and property managers Habitat America and Severn Management procured the wind power through Clean Currents, a Mid-Atlantic independent green energy company formed in 2005.
In certain states that are deregulated for electricity, the utility companies do not have a monopoly on the energy supply, and users can choose a supplier that buys and sells energy, which can often lower the cost per kilowatt hour and generate a bit of savings. Just as important, says Lynn Gardner, a business development associate at Clean Currents, developers are protected in cases where electricity costs go up many times because of gas and oil prices.
Gardner says another benefit to purchasing energy supply bundled with wind power is supporting renewable energy goals of most local, state, and federal legislative groups. With 10 percent wind power, 10 percent of those kilowatt hours used will be paid to the wind industry for producing that amount of energy to the electricity grid. Wind and solar energy supplying the national grid system with electricity is measured, bought, and sold through certified renewable energy credits (RECs). Every 1,000 kilowatt hours is equal to one REC.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, the buying group's procurement of 10 percent wind power is equivalent to removing 770 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or emissions from 86,377 gallons of gasoline or consuming 1,792 barrels of oil.
Gardner, who has a background in affordable housing, understands the importance of cost savings. “I'm aware of budgets and financing and utility costs. I wanted to help these communities save money on their utility bills,” she says. “With that in place, they are able to do something green without costing any money, saving money [on utilities], and protecting their bottom lines."
Gardner adds that with the government's mission to focus on green and sustainable practices, this also is a way to add green elements without a major cost to be able to potentially tap into grant monies. Another benefit is that it can add points to LEED or other environmental certification programs.
Annapolis, Md.-based nonprofit developer and owner Homes for America has 14 projects with Clean Currents.
“The most practical and pragmatic reason: The rate we were able to lock in for energy costs for the contract term was significant savings over what we've been paying,” says Nancy Rase, president of Homes for America. “A number of the projects under that contract are ownerpaid utilities, so we don't have to raise rents to pay for increasing utilities. It's a real win for the residents and us."
Rase says Homes for America has moved to green operations and meets the Enterprise Green Communities or EarthCraft standards at its projects.
“It's consistent with what we believe is the right thing to do. We should be looking at green forms of energy. It's important to protect our future."
Gardner says she believes this will become a trend nationwide. “There are just big, big issues with energy. Our population is growing so fast, and the energy supply is not. In order to keep up with the demand, there will need to be other ways to supply energy. Renewable energy is going to play a big part of that."