Finding possibilities in surprising placesHow DSD leveraged unusable land, and new state policies, to help a not-for-profit Life Plan Community pursue its goal of being a renewables leader in its space.
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National Lutheran Communities & Services (NLCS) is a not-for-profit organization that provides retirement communities and other services to support underserved older adults. NLCS is leading the way in its space for sustainable practices. The organization is committed to improving and fostering the environmental well-being of the communities it serves — by using renewable energy sources, being energy efficient, and partnering with sustainable companies.
In 2021, NLCS sought a renewable leader to develop a ground-mounted solar array to provide clean energy to one of its Life Plan Communities, The Village at Orchard Ridge. What they found was a solar energy partner that could match their ambition and offer an even bigger vision: DSD.
NLCS is committed to achieving 100% renewable energy usage across its facilities. That’s an ambitious goal — especially given the tight budgets and lean staff that’s common among not-for-profit organizations. Plus, 501(c)(3) organizations are typically restricted from taking advantage of federal tax credits that can make solar energy more accessible.
But DSD and NLCS were able to overcome all these challenges. DSD leveraged new policies, which were recently enacted in Virginia, to earn more value from renewable energy certificates. This provided the edge needed to make this project economically viable for The Village of Orchard Ridge and NLCS.
Beyond the housing and facilities at The Village at Orchard Ridge were 7 acres of undulating ground, rife with ledge rock, that were unsuitable to build upon. The DSD design and engineering team got to work exploring if they could leverage that land for a solar installation.
Construction began in July 2022. This was a challenging project site and a new-generation asset class for the local utility. DSD worked closely with all parties to streamline the process: overcoming interconnection limitations; installing a ground-mount solar array on sloping, unforgiving terrain; and ensuring that the construction and development process had minimal disruption to the community’s 300-plus residents.
The installation will meet 85% of the community’s energy needs, producing the energy equivalent of powering up to 330 homes annually.
The installation at The Village at Orchard Ridge is the first behind-the-meter solar project built for a not-for-profit organization in Virginia. This project meets 85% of the community’s energy needs by producing an estimated 2,396 MWh of energy per year — the equivalent of powering up to 330 homes annually. In addition to the solar array, EV charging stations are also being installed in Orchard Ridge parking lot areas. The chargers allow staff, residents and visitors to charge their electric vehicles, adding an extra component of sustainable living to the campus.
Altogether, this project helps support NLCS’s ethical and financial goals, establishes the brand as a sustainability leader within its industry, and gives residents and staff at The Village at Orchard Ridge one more reason to be proud of living in a housing facility that promotes sustainable solar solutions.
“The reason why we partnered with DSD is because there’s no problem too small or too big that we [couldn’t] work through in a collaborative way.”
The Village at Orchard Ridge
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