Powering Strong Communities

SMLD collaborates with real estate company for energy efficient apartment complexes

Massachusetts public power utility Sterling Municipal Light Department (SMLD) is partnering with Whitney Companies, a real estate development firm, to offer ultra-efficient living options to Northgate Meadows, a new luxury apartment complex located in Sterling, Mass.

SMLD previously worked with Whitney Companies on a subdivision located in Leominster, Mass.

Jim Whitney, president of Whitney Companies, expressed interest in energy efficient HVAC options for his apartments. Jason Viadero, chief emerging technologies engineer at Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC), lined up a meeting between Whitney and Mitsubishi, a mini split heat pump manufacturer, so Whitney and his associates could learn more about the devices, MMWEC detailed in its summer 2020 Joint Action News newsletter.

Whitney subsequently moved forward with purchasing mini splits for his apartment units, MMWEC noted.

Sean Hamilton, General Manager of SMLD, collaborated with Whitney throughout the purchasing process and examined the idea of offering Whitney Companies rebates on the efficient devices, MMWEC noted in the newsletter.

Over the summer, the SMLD board signed off on the initiative and awarded Whitney Companies a $500 rebate for each mini split purchased, MMWEC noted.

After the mini splits are installed, they will be enrolled in the MMWEC Connected Homes program. Tenants who participate in the program will receive monthly incentive checks.

“It all adds up to great savings and great load reduction with so many apartments,” Hamilton told the American Public Power Association.

“We have had other MLPs [municipal light plants] engage in discussions with developers on collaborative projects (rooftop solar on apartment or commercial buildings for instance), but nothing with ultra-efficient housing,” Kate Roy, an MMWEC spokesperson said.

MMWEC Connected Homes program

When a customer enrolls in MMWEC’s Connected Homes program they agree to allow their local electric provider – MMWEC members are known as MLPs – to make brief, limited adjustments to their devices during times of peak electric demand, such as temporarily reducing the charging rate of an electric vehicle.

Participating customers will be informed of possible adjustments in advance via email and will have the ability to opt out of each adjustment. Participating customers also are given a rebate check or bill credit for the adjustments made.

Customers can also use Connected Homes to get a better handle on their energy usage, by controlling their devices remotely, or by setting usage schedules for individual devices.

Devices eligible for the program vary depending on the individual MLP but include home batteries, electric vehicle chargers, electric hot water heaters and mini-split controllers.

MMWEC held a soft launch of the Connected Homes Program in the spring with 13 participating MLPs including Groton, Holden, Holyoke, Ipswich, Mansfield, Marblehead, Paxton, Princeton, Shrewsbury, South Hadley, Sterling, Wakefield, and West Boylston. 

Devices currently in the program include mini-split controllers, electric hot water heaters, EV chargers and home batteries, with plans to expand the type of devices in the very near future.  

“While participation growth is slower than we’d hoped due to COVID, we expect the expanded device options and increased marketing surrounding that addition will increase interest,” Roy said.

“The key benefit to the participating MLPs is demand response capability the program will provide. A secondary benefit is the additional contact and communication channel the program allows. Customers with a particular interest in climate change can actively participate in the effort to reduce carbon emissions, while saving money each month on their electric bills,” she said.

SMLD proposed adding EV chargers

Hamilton and his team also proposed adding electric vehicle (EV) chargers to Northgate Meadows, MMWEC reported, and the Whitney Companies agreed that EV chargers would be a good option for future tenants.

Viadero assisted SMLD with its application for grant funding for the chargers through Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (MassEVIP). All 12 proposed EV chargers were approved for funding under the MassEVIP program in July. SMLD will managed the chargers after installation. “The grant for the EV charger was just great timing,” Hamilton told APPA.

This is SMLD’s first partnership with a real estate company. The first units at Northgate Meadows are expected to be ready for tenants this year, MMWEC noted in the newsletter.

MMWEC is a non-profit, public corporation and political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, created by an Act of the General Assembly in 1975 and authorized to issue debt to finance a wide range of energy facilities.