January 12, 2009

The Gasser Foundation (Gasser), created in the 1980s by Peter Gasser and his wife Vernice “Pat” Gasser, is a pillar of support to the non-profit community of Napa Valley, California. Gasser contributes between $1.5 and $2 million annually to local hospitals, hospices, homeless shelters, and cultural organizations and has a work-force training initiative in collaboration with the local community college. As a long-standing leader in and a steward of the community, Gasser recently amended its mission statement to include environmental sustainability as a principal factor in all of its activities.

Gasser’s environmental focus began in its own backyard with a proposal to install a solar energy facility on the roof of its new office building to produce almost 100% of its electricity needs – approximately 185,000 kWh annually. The challenge: finding a financing structure for the project that took advantage of the Renewable Energy Tax Credit (RETC) and maximized the financial benefits to the Foundation.

Enter NDC. In partnership with the installer, Borrego Solar, NDC devised a financing model that provided the nearly $1.5 million in project costs through a combination of RETC equity, two loans and a state cash rebate offered through the California Energy Commission’s Go Solar Initiative. This program provides a state rebate incentive for residential and commercial solar installations. As an early participant in the program, Gasser locked in a rebate of 26 cents per kWh produced annually.

NDC ‘s financing structure was designed to maximize the economic benefit to the community. After five years, the asset will be conveyed to Gasser at a price that minimizes the cost while meeting all the compliance requirements of the tax credit program. NDC expects to replicate this unique structure as the program grows, adding a significant community development benefit to the environmental and energy benefits envisioned by Congress.

Not only does this project eliminate a potential 26 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually (the equivalent of turning the wheels back on an automobile by 58,000 miles a year) but it supports Gasser’s stewardship vision and places it in the vanguard among Napa Valley’s non-profits. There is a substantial workforce development component in the project: all of the installation workers were from the local labor market. In addition, the installation of the solar facility includes a local workforce training program offering “green collar” job training for local residents, training that will pay dividends in the local economy as interest in solar facility installations continues to increase. And NDC will be there to make the vision a reality.