Log Lunch with Anna Peterson and Sarah Ladouceur: the Role of Solar Energy in Commercial Decarbonization

On Friday, January 5, two Williams alumni—Sarah Ladouceur ‘18 and Anna Peterson ‘22—gave the first Log Lunch talk of the new year. Sarah and Anna are on the Origination, Financing, and Structuring team at Altus Power, a commercial and industrial (C&I) solar company. Their discussion provided insight into the fundamentals of solar system developments, the motivations behind groups working with Altus Power, and two projects they have recently collaborated on. 

To kick off the discussion, Anna shared that she first became interested in this line of work through a Winter Study class on renewable energy, taught by alum Jim Clark. They then introduced some primary reasons why some corporations are interested in commercial solar. Sarah explained that sustainability is not the only driving factor in the decisions. Economic gains provide incentives for corporations to become involved in commercial solar, as it can provide lower energy costs, increase the value of a building, and state and federal legislation provides tax credits and other benefits. At the same time, some clients are interested in the environmental advantages of  a solar system. Some groups pay additional fees to guarantee that their energy use is sustainably sourced and that they can accurately describe this energy, which Altus power helps coordinate. 

Anna and Sarah outlined four terms to know about solar-metering: net metering, behind-the-meter (BOM), front-of-meter (FOM), and community solar. Net metering is the compensation for excess energy production sent to the grid. In a BOM system, onsite energy production is consumed directly by onsite sources, and in an FOM system, energy produced on site is sent to the grid. Community solar is similar to FOM, but community members can “subscribe” to the system to receive clean energy at a discounted price. Community solar focuses on communities that want a solar energy option available to all residents. 

Sarah and Anna are working on a community solar project in New York City. Their efforts involve commercial buyers and low to moderate income (LMI) subscribers. They are working to ensure that the LMI subscribers in the Bronx receive the clean energy from the project. After their presentation,  Anna and Sarah hosted a career discussion for individuals interested in commercial renewable energy. 

Sarah and Anna were excited to present in front of a full house of attendees, who enjoyed delicious onion and potato frittatas and split pea soup, alongside scrumptious garlic bread rolls and a roasted vegetable salad with Green Goddess dressing, or roasted potato wedges as a vegan option. The split pea soup featured carrots from Full Well Farm, as well as the magnificent carrot cake served for dessert.