The state of Mississippi had about 437 MW of solar power installed by Q4 2022, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Nationally, that meant it was ranked 28th. According to SEIA, Mississippi then generated less than 1% of its electricity from solar power. Most of its electricity comes from natural gas, nuclear, and coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Nashville, Tennessee-based Clearloop is working with various organizations to develop three new solar power farms in Mississippi, specifically in Panola County. Clearloop’s co-founder and CEO Laura Zapata answered some questions about the new solar power farms and how they were financed for CleanTechnica.
What is a carbon offset, and is it the same as a renewable energy credit?
The main difference between a carbon offset and a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is the unit it is measuring. A carbon offset quantifies a reduction, removal, or prevention of carbon emissions created to compensate for emissions made elsewhere, generally measured as a metric ton of carbon dioxide (carbon) equivalent. On the other hand, RECs quantify the power output from a renewable energy source and is equivalent to one Megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity generated. For corporate carbon accounting purposes, RECs don’t have a carbon value and are used to match the electricity consumption based on MWhs of an organization or Scope 2. Carbon offsets are generally used by organizations to make up for their carbon footprint created directly (Scope 1) and indirectly through their value chain (Scope 3).
How do companies and universities buy them, and why do they do so?
Offsetting one’s carbon footprint means compensating for one’s emissions by funding a carbon-saving method somewhere else. Essentially, an organization can measure their carbon impact and then purchase a carbon offset that will result in a positive action to counteract — or offset — their emissions in another part of the economy. Companies and universities purchase carbon offsets or renewable energy certificates (RECs) from Clearloop to cut the carbon emissions that result from their own operations and activity, as well as indirect emissions that come from sources throughout their supply chain.
How does Clearloop work with the carbon offset buyers to develop solar power farms?
Those concerned about their carbon footprints — from small and medium-sized businesses, like FarmHouse Fresh, to the Fortune 500, like Intuit — purchase carbon offsets upfront from Clearloop, such that their payments support the construction of brand-new solar projects in American communities where the greatest impact can be made, both environmental and economic. Clearloop’s unique approach of centering the communities most affected by climate change and the renewable energy transition enables companies of all sizes to provide tangible benefits to communities while meeting both their sustainability and social impact goals. As more and more companies look to shrink their carbon footprints and ensure that no community gets left behind in the energy transition, Clearloop presents a unique value proposition in the marketplace that addresses each of these issues.
Clearloop uses solar capacity (measured in watts) as the mechanism to reclaim the carbon emissions from the grid. We charge partners a small fee based on a percentage of their product’s carbon footprint. Those funds are used to build the new solar projects in the middle of the U.S. where the electricity grid is disproportionately carbon-dependent and solar power is needed the most.
Clearloop offers a way for organizations of all sizes to use their carbon footprint to invest in building new renewable energy infrastructure in communities that otherwise would not see that investment.
Clearloop has pioneered the use of emissionality to compare the impact of renewable energy projects on driving down emissions in determining where new solar generation can displace the most carbon.
How much time is required for Clearloop to work with carbon offset buyers to arrange for the financing of a new solar power installation?
Clearloop is here to make the process simple for organizations of all sizes. We are focused on accelerating decarbonization and expanding access to clean energy.
Clearloop has scaled its process and methodology to customize timelines around organizations’ readiness to reclaim their carbon. The process with Clearloop starts with equating an organization’s carbon offset goals into a capacity of watts and total investment towards a new solar project for which they will receive the lifetime environmental attributes. Clearloop uses these upfront investments to fund the commissioning of new solar projects in locations where we can achieve significant environmental and socio-economic benefits. Clearloop’s carbon solutions ensure transparent and tangible returns on every dollar spent on corporate sustainability initiatives. We commission new solar projects as the means to reclaim carbon emissions, providing organizations a tangible model for reporting on carbon reductions and removal efforts. Clearloop provides assurance and transparency around the direct positive impact these organizations have by decarbonizing the electricity grid.
How many solar power farms will be developed and made operational in Panola County as a result of Clearloop’s work?
We just broke ground on the 6.6-megawatt (MWdc) Panola I Solar Farm, which is the first of three solar projects we have launched in partnership with the local power company, Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association (TVEPA), and with the support of the local economic development group, the Panola Partnership.
How much of the area’s electricity will be generated by the new solar power farms once they are operating?
Combined, the three projects, totaling approximately 18 million watts, will prevent over 1 billion pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere and generate enough renewable, cost-effective energy to power approximately 3,000 homes annually over the course of 40 years.
What are some of the reasons why a company or university might decide to buy carbon offsets rather than installing their own renewable energy systems?
A company or university might decide to buy carbon offsets rather than installing their own renewable energy systems for a number of reasons. An organization may want to offset just one part of their business, like the emissions produced by one particular product — from design, to production, to shipping. Purchasing carbon offsets enable companies to match their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions with renewable, carbon-free energy. Clearloop offers added value — we build brand new solar projects in the areas of the United States where the greatest impact can be made, both environmental and economic. Clearloop prioritizes community support and engagement as an integral part of the development of any solar project from the beginning, and we know that the success of any such project needs the local community to participate in that success.
Beyond commissioning new solar projects, Clearloop helps promote economic development and creates educational and workforce development opportunities for communities, becoming a part of STEM and environmental studies curriculum in local schools, and training local citizens for careers in renewable energy. By buying carbon offsets with Clearloop, organizations can have more of an impact than they would by installing their own renewable energy systems.
What are Clearloop’s plans for the next three to five years?
Clearloop’s portfolio of contracted and operational projects has increased tenfold over the last couple of years. We plan to continue building new solar in the communities that stand to benefit the most, with support from organizations of all sizes.
Image credit: Clearloop
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