Historical Sites can now host Solar

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Historic buildings are tough to work on, especially as a solar installer. I have first hand experience with that. A project in Canton, CT got killed after 3 years of trying to work with local and gov’t agencies in order to restore an old axe manufacturing plant into a self-sufficient power plant – it even had functioning turbines that used to power the plant from the river next to it.  However, this deal got killed because for us to implement solar – which was necessary to reduce the development costs [love us some Federal Solar ITCs] – we would have to chop about 18 acres of land in the back of the property, which was a no go for us even if we wanted to do so. This was all caused by the fact that putting solar up on the roof would hurt the historical design of the original building and wouldn’t get us permits. 

Which brings us to the Swiss company – Freesuns – which has been designing and piloting a “tesla solar roof” equivalent product for historic buildings where they utilize their tile like design to maintain the historic building’s roof look and feel. 

Just take a look at the 8kw system they installed on the Grand Chalet

Now when it comes to solar roof tiles, building integrated PV and this whole “how to best hide those ugly panels” industry is shaping up it – the core question that we all need to ask first is “how good is the power production at what cost?” 

That’s where Freesuns has impressed us – their standard tiles which go for $299 are rated at 154 W/m^2 which means that they are able to move product for $1.94/Watt. Now that is way higher than buying even premium end panels for commercial buildings – in fact we have seen full solar projects developed for sub $1.94/Watt. To add to the confidence they are backing it with an 80% performance guarantee until year 20 and due to the modularity – their tiles will cover a full building – which they need to do if they want to compete in a tough solar market. 

So why do we find Freesuns commercial PV integrated solution for historic buildings interesting to say the least. 

Historic Tax Credits as a starting point. 

A number of historic building restoration projects can be heavily subsidized by local and federal grants. Tax credits being another funding source that bring tax-equity dollars into the mix. Pair that with solar ITCs and any local utility/state incentives and you have yourself a project possibly kicking out a 12%+ IRR – not even factoring for the potential of PPA revenue from solar. Now that doesn’t mean every project is a slam dunk, but, it makes most worth looking at. Even at the price point Freesuns is sitting at it opens up a pandora’s box of opportunity to start to redevelop historic sites as modern day self-sustainable green buildings. 

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