Connected by the Sun
By: Ryan Dings
When you visit Greentown Labs, you are immediately struck by the talented community of entrepreneurs developing advanced clean technologies in the global fight against climate change. But take a closer look and you see a community equally concerned with strengthening its hometown of Somerville, Massachusetts.
Located just two miles north of Boston, Somerville is city known for its diversity, innovation, and access to world-class universities. When Greentown Labs was looking for a place to relocate in 2013, it selected Somerville. Less than five years later, over 50 cleantech start-up companies were building their proto-types and businesses out of Greentown Labs, including Sunwealth, which called Greentown home in its early days. Bursting at the seams, management worked with City leaders to undertake a major expansion, retrofitting an adjacent garage into a 54,000 square foot expansion of the Greentown Labs campus and creating the world’s largest Global Center for Cleantech Innovation.
At Sunwealth, we recognized Greentown Labs’ commitment to both energy innovation and the community which had nurtured its growth. We also knew of Somerville’s national leadership in reaching aggressive sustainability and clean energy goals. An opportunity emerged to connect the City and Greentown Labs and design a project with social impact at its core.
Declining solar costs have led to a national solar boom. Yet urban populations, the very residents, businesses and municipalities most heavily impacted by high energy costs and climate change, are the least able to access solar. A variety of factors, from credit requirements to tax structuring and the complexities of urban real estate, keep them shut out. Sunwealth is dedicated to bringing together investors, developers, installers, building owners, power sellers and power purchasers to change this equation.
Today, Greentown Labs hosts a commercial-scale, 110 KW solar photovoltaic installation on the roof of its Global Center for Cleantech Innovation. Developed by Sunwealth and financed through our Solar Impact Fund, the installation was built by United Solar Associates, a Malden, Massachusetts-based contractor started by a Somerville High School graduate. For the next 20 years, a remote net metering arrangement will convert the power generated by this renewable system into credits which the City of Somerville will use to reduce the electricity costs and improve the sustainability of facilities owned by Somerville throughout the city.
We are so proud to play a role in helping Greentown’s environmental stewardship reinforce environmental justice in the City of Somerville. Through a 110 KW solar array, this global incubator and our dynamic hometown are connected by the sun, working together to build a more resilient community.