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The Lowell Housing Authority Uses Solar Hot Water to Reduce Costs
Solar Hot Water
The Lowell Housing Authority, or LHA, was Massachusetts’ first public housing authority, created as a result of the Housing Act of 1937. Its initial goals were to provide “safe, decent, and sanitary housing” for low-income community members. Since its inception in 1937, the LHA has become a full social service agency and now implements affordable housing programs and services and creates opportunities for residents to become self-sufficient.
The LHA, aided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, aspires to lessen its environmental impact and increase its cost savings, specifically by prioritizing energy and water conservation. To work toward this, the LHA implemented a utility savings plan with Ameresco, Inc., which recommended a solar hot water system as part of a 2020-21 update to the LHA’s Energy Performance Contract.
The LHA took advantage of MassCEC’s Solar Hot Water program to install a solar hot water system to provide domestic water heating, replacing two centralized natural gas boilers. It serves a LHA development with 166 units, or 466 individuals, where the population predominantly consists of young parents with children. The development features a shared hot water loop that provides domestic hot water to the surrounding row house style units. Because all the hot water is generated in one central boiler plant, any solar energy that is generated by this system will be used. The system was installed in December 2020 by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) LLC and it includes 21 Sunearth TRB26 flat plate collectors. The LHA was awarded a $40,985.25 grant from MassCEC. The project also received an energy efficiency incentive from the local gas utility, National Grid, and plans to receive alternative energy credits (AECs) for the project as well. According to RES Solar, the total cost of the system was about $133,550. The installer also estimated that the project would save LHA around $3,000 per year in operating expenses, depending on the price of natural gas.
“The system just came online in January 2021 and we have not analyzed the efficiencies yet against prior year data. However, we anticipate success,” said Jonathan Goldfield, Capital Asset Manager of the LHA. The housing authority has trained personnel for preventative maintenance and operation of the system, with support and monitoring from their installer, RES Solar. Preventative maintenance will make the system last longer and operate more efficiently.
“Currently, the system per RES Solar is working very well,” Goldfield said. According to monitoring by RES Solar, the solar hot water pump is running for almost 8 hours a day and producing around 600,600 BTUs or 175 kWh per day, which exceeds the installer’s expectations for winter months.
The LHA project is one of 123 commercial projects that MassCEC has supported through the Commercial Scale Solar Hot Water Program.
The Lowell Housing Authority’s new solar array:
Photo courtesy of RES Solar