Selling a Solar Home Checklist

Selling a house with solar is pretty straightforward, but we’re here to make it even easier.

We worked with realtors to develop a Selling a Solar Home Check List to make sure you get the value you deserve.

Selling a house with solar? Following the steps below will help realtors, appraisers, lenders, and future buyers get an accurate valuation of your solar home. While we cannot guarantee your home’s proper valuation, this procedure is recommended by real estate professionals nationwide.

Please note that solar power is a foreign object to many in the real estate industry, so advocating for professionals competent in solar homes is strongly advised.

Information you should collect when selling a solar home

Have these documents prominently displayed during showings

suncommon solar installation
Solar Adds Value To Your Property, Don't Leave Money on the Table

Solar System Plans

  • Physical Layout
  • Electrical Maps

Utility Records of Energy Use

  • Example of bill(s) – a Fall bill is best as it identifies the credits accrued.

Product and Service Guarantees

  • Solar Panels
  • Solar Inverter
  • Home Energy Storage (if applicable)
  • Service Guarantee

Documents you need to complete

You have a right to a fair appraisal. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA guidelines require lenders to choose competent appraisers, i.e. those with the knowledge and experience required to perform a professional quality appraisal for your specific geographic location and property type. Refer to the following documents as you work with your lender to make sure you get the best value when selling a house with solar.

Read & fill out The Appraisal Institute’s Appraised Value & Energy Efficiency: Getting it Right to ensure your lender hires a competent appraiser.

This document acts as a guideline for communication strategies between buyers and lenders to ensure proper valuation for a home that has performance features. This document also holds the descriptions from the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac Guidelines.

Complete the Appraisal Institute’s Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum form. This should be presented to your appraiser. If you don’t have all the information for the form, contact your solar installer for information regarding those specifications

This is a form that can be filled out by the homeowner or certified contractor to report all relevant home performance upgrades, including solar system specifications. The form can support the appraiser in making a fair valuation of the home.

Print results from PV Value Tool

The PV value tool can be used by appraisers, homeowners and real estate professionals alike to get an accurate valuation of a home solar system. There are number of system details that you should know and other metrics where a default can be used and not significantly impact the stated value.

Have a copy of a completed Home Energy Rating System (HERS) report, this is valuable if available.

Documents you need to complete

You have a right to a fair appraisal. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA guidelines require lenders to choose competent appraisers, i.e. those with the knowledge and experience required to perform a professional quality appraisal for your specific geographic location and property type. Refer to the following documents as you work with your lender to make sure you get the best value when selling a house with solar.

Read & fill out The Appraisal Institute’s Appraised Value & Energy Efficiency: Getting it Right to ensure your lender hires a competent appraiser.

This document acts as a guideline for communication strategies between buyers and lenders to ensure proper valuation for a home that has performance features. This document also holds the descriptions from the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac Guidelines.

Complete the Appraisal Institute’s Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum form. This should be presented to your appraiser. If you don’t have all the information for the form, contact your solar installer for information regarding those specifications

This is a form that can be filled out by the homeowner or certified contractor to report all relevant home performance upgrades, including solar system specifications. The form can support the appraiser in making a fair valuation of the home.

Print results from PV Value Tool

The PV value tool can be used by appraisers, homeowners and real estate professionals alike to get an accurate valuation of a home solar system. There are number of system details that you should know and other metrics where a default can be used and not significantly impact the stated value.

Have a copy of a completed Home Energy Rating System (HERS) report, this is valuable if available.

Next, ensure competent appraisers are hired.

What can you do, you ask?

Attach supporting documents to MLS listings.

Provide documentation to the lender through a lender letter and the Residential Green Home Addendum.

While talking to an appraiser, don’t be afraid to ask, ”Do you have experience in appraising a house with solar? What training do you have?” If they have none, reach out to the lender, cancel the visit and ask for a competent appraisal in this property type.

While the appraiser is there, be there too! You and the homeowner are able to be resources to the builder, broker, agent and seller. You can provide valuable information to the appraiser with all the documents you have provided! Yes, appraisers can’t be pressured by a load officer or others involved while arrive at a value conclusion, but you can help provide the facts!


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Our Guide to Building a New House with Solar

Our Guide to Building a House with Solar

There are a lot of advantages to building a modern, efficient, and “smart” home. Pairing efficient building design with the latest technology, like heat pumps, energy efficient appliances, solar, and battery storage can reduce your energy bill significantly, or (if you opt for solar) eliminate it entirely.

building a house with solar

Building a new home?

Design with solar in mind! 

Solar is a smart addition for new homes, and SunCommon has years of experience working with contractors, builders, and architects to incorporate solar right into a home’s design. Orientation and design can have a big impact on the efficiency of the solar system, so here are some of the details to keep in mind as you start dreaming-up the plans for your new home. To download our complete guide, use the form at the bottom of the page. 

SunCommon offers a classic roof or ground solar array, a timber-framed Solar Canopy, or even integrated Tesla Solar Roof, any of which can be paired with an energy storage system.


Orientation to the Sun

An ideal roof for solar has a large surface facing south, southeast, or southwest. For a Solar Canopy or ground array, choose a sunny spot in your yard that’s flat or gently sloped, ideally within 150’ of your home’s utility room or meter. 

Obstructions & Shading

A wide-open roof is best. Obstructions like chimneys, vent pipes, dormers, and skylights can cast a shadow and limit the space available for your solar system. Tree shading will also factor in, so it’s best to have a shade-free roof from roughly 9 AM to 3 PM.

Roof Structure

To optimize solar production, a south-facing roof pitch between 30 to 35 degrees is recommended, though we can install solar on roofs up to 45 degrees. For east- or west-facing roofs, a pitch between 10 to 30 degrees is best. Any roof 10 degrees or less will require a professional structural review to verify the roof can accommodate the added weight of a system.

Roofing Material

Standing Seam Metal
These roofs are ideal because they will last as long as your solar system (25+ years). Our design team can work with your roofing contractor to install junction boxes, which will allow the wiring to be concealed and hidden. 

Asphalt Shingles
We recommend a 30-year rated shingle. Talk to your contractor about using a minimum of 1/2” OSB or ⅝” plywood sheathing on the roof. 

Corrugated Metal
Solar can only be installed on this surface when certain conditions are met. Please get in touch with us before selecting corrugated metal and we’ll discuss options that can accommodate solar. 

Tesla Solar Roof
A seamless design choice that uses solar shingles as roofing material. 

Electrical

Arguably the most important element of any solar design. Please let your electrical contractor know right away that you are planning to incorporate solar into your new build. If SunCommon is involved in the process early on, we can work with your contractor to choose equipment that is preferred for solar interconnections. 

There are several electrical components to consider as it relates to solar: service size, main service panel location, utility requirements and existing utility infrastructure.

To learn more and view specifics, complete the form below to download our complete Building a House with Solar Guide, or give us a call at 802-882-8170.

electrical boxes


Ready to get started?

Use the form below to download the complete
Building a Home with Solar Guide

1. The Roof (Azimuth)

A west-facing roof isn’t a dealbreaker anymore

Let’s start with the roof.  An ideal roof has a large, uninterrupted surface facing south, southeast, or southwest.  However, given advances in solar module technology and efficiencies that make them more affordable, a purely due-south roof is no longer a prerequisite. A well-producing solar home should have an orientation or “azimuth” within 90 degrees of true south. The closer the solar azimuth is to 180 degrees true south the better the system will produce. Roof angles are also something to consider. A roof pitch between 5 and 12 is ideal. The lower the slope, the less production you will see in the winter.

A good roof for solar is an empty roof; uninterrupted. That means keep your chimneys, vent pipes, dormers, and skylights away from that nice big southern expanse! We can work around these things if we have to, but if you want to maximize production, have wide-open spaces.

2. Trees

Shade on panels means less production

When you’re deciding where you want to put your home on your land it is best to avoid any trees on the solar side.  Planting a gorgeous maple in front of your array will mean shadowed solar panels in a few years.  Go ahead and tuck the northern side of your home into the trees, but any tree that casts a shadow on your solar roof for any significant portion of the day is no good for your system’s production.

3. Roof Material

Anything but cedar and slate

Roof composition really matters when building a house with solar. Asphalt shingles or metal roofs are great, slate and cedar shingles are a no go.

With asphalt roofs, it is important to choose a shingle that will last as long as your solar system. A 30-year rated shingle would be best. A minimum 3/8” sheathing on the roof is recommended. Standing seam metal roofs are ideal because the roof material will last as long as your solar system. Corrugated metal roofs are also an option. Our solar attachments are happiest if your corrugated is installed directly on top of plywood decking.

4. House Electrical

A benefit of incorporating solar into your new construction is that we will often be able to integrate the wire or pipe run into your building. We will work with you or your contractor on the specifics to make sure that you get a high-producing and aesthetically-pleasing solar system.

Our licensed electricians can run conduit and wire while your walls are open. Then, as soon as you have a roof, we’ll be happy to come out, install your solar system and celebrate with you as your meter runs backwards.

5. PV Systems Add Weight

A standard PV system adds less than 3lbs per square foot on the roof. Making sure your roof can support this weight across the house is important and your contractor should be able to factor this added weight into the design.

6. What We Need From You

In order to facilitate a Design and a cost estimate for your PV system, we will need some information about your project. Some of the things we will need are:

  • Contractor Phone Numbers (if any)
  • Design/ Architectural Drawings
  • Structural Information
  • Electrical Information
  • Building Timeline

To summarize, when building a house with solar, you want a roof that is unshaded and free of obstructions such as dormers, chimneys, or skylights; made of solar-friendly materials such as metal or asphalt shingle; and structurally supported by accounting for the weight of the panels and leaving room for the necessary electrical work to connect the panels to your circuitry.

We hope this information will be useful while you work on your home. Remember these are strictly recommendations and you should build your home to how you prefer it. If you (or your contractor) have any questions about how to better integrate your new home project into the solar system, our engineering team will be happy to assist you!

Have any specific questions, we’re happy to answer them here or via email.

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SMA Sunny Boy Inverters

SMA SunnyBoy Inverters

  • SunCommon has installed several SMA Sunny Boy inverter models.
  • (Please note: your Sunny Boy inverter may be branded SunPower.  This is common for SunPower lease customers).
  • From left to right, the inverter models are: Sunny Boy SBXXXX-USSunny Boy SBXXXXTL-USSunny Boy  SBXXXXTL-US-22*.
  • *This is the newest model used in ground mounted installations since 2020.

Getting to know your SMA SunnyBoy Inverter

To illuminate the screen, knock (like you would on a door) on the inverter in the space above the screen.

  • Knocking will cycle through the daily energy values of the past 16 days and switch to the next text line at the bottom of the screen. 
  • Additional displays will provide the firmware version, serial number, the Bluetooth NetID, and the specified country standard, and display language.
  • Continue to knock to move through each display screen.
customer-support-sunny-boy-inverter

The display updates the values of your PV system every 5 seconds. 

A) Knocking icon. (This icon will illuminate during reboot after an Arc fault.  If it appears, knock on the inverter to clear it.)

B) Graph of system production.

C) Error icons.  If illuminated, take a photo of any errors displayed in “H” and contact support@suncommon.com.

D) Current power.

E) Daily energy.

F) Total energy generated since the inverter was installed.

G) Display of enabled functions.

H) Text line for displaying an event or error.


Troubleshooting

Common Error Messages

If you have Ground/Earth Faults or Isolation Errors, do not attempt to power cycle your device because of electrical hazards. Please contact our Customer Support Team.

1. Arc Fault Detected/Check DC Generator/AFCI detected
Power-cycle the inverter (see instructions below), and watch the inverter screen after rebooting it. You should see a prompt to knock on the inverter to officially clear the error code.

2. Unstable Operation
This typically is caused by snow on panels, when there is not enough input on the DC side. If your panels are clear of snow, get in touch with our Customer Support Team.

3. Fac-Bfr (Grid Frequency Disturbance)
This will happen when the power is out, or if the inverter has disconnected from the power distribution grid.
It could also be caused by a tripped breaker or blown fuse. To resolve, first check your breaker (if possible) and then contact our Customer Support Team .

4. K-1 Open
Error requiring replacement. Please contact our Customer Support Team with a photo of the error code to start the warranty process.


How to Power-Cycle your SMA Sunny Boy Inverter:

1) Turn off the DC disconnect. This is a dial (black or white) located on the underside or along the side of the inverter. Please reference the photo of your model inverter from above to see where the dial is located. Simply turn it to the “off” position.

2) Turn off your system’s AC disconnect. This is located outside next to your utility meter. Look for a grey box labeled AC Disconnect with a lever that you’ll pull down into the “off” position. If you do not see a grey box labeled AC disconnect, look for a breaker underneath your Net Meter (ConnectDER).  You will need to turn the breaker off.  To do this, unscrew the grey cover to access the breaker. See reference photos.

3) Wait 5 minutes and then turn them back on in reverse order. Throw the AC lever or breaker back to the “on” position and turn the dial on the inverter back to the “on” position.

4) If you are resetting an “Arc Detect” code. Watch the inverter screen after rebooting it for the Knocking icon to illuminate and knock on the inverter to clear the code.

After these steps, the inverter will start to turn back on and may take a minute or two to reboot. You should see the main screen as normal once the reboot is complete with no error message. If the issue persists, please contact support@suncommon.com.

AC Disconnect Lever next to utility meter
AC Disconnect Lever next to utility meter
AC disconnect underneath the ConnectDER

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Understanding Your Carbon Footprint

How much CO2 does your lifestyle produce?

The United States has the highest carbon footprint per capita in the world, and is second only to China for country with the highest total emissions. The average carbon footprint for a single person in the United States is 16 tons per year.

Where do my emissions come from?

A carbon footprint is the measure of greenhouse gases produced by the activities one participates in. Generally, they are calculated based on one’s location, transportation, heat and electricity consumption, diet, family size, and waste management practices.

There are many, many carbon footprint calculators out there. This one from conservation.org is helpful because it adjusts in real time as you change values in the tool.

How much do you think you emit, compared to the average household?

It turns out there’s a fairly straightforward litmus test. Household income is the primary determinant of a person’s actual ecological footprint. Meaning, if you’re on the wealthier side of the income spectrum, chances are you are responsible for more carbon emissions than the average American.

How can I lower my emissions?

1. Going Solar and Heating/Cooling with Electricity

About 30% of the average person’s carbon footprint comes from home energy use. Solar can offset that! Every kilowatt of solar installed saves over 1.5 tons of carbon emissions annually. For the average five-kilowatt residential system, that’s a reduction of more than 15,000 pounds of CO2 every year! While you won’t realistically be able to eliminate your home’s greenhouse gas emissions entirely, solar power goes a long way in shrinking household usage. Once you go solar, you can add electric heating appliances, like air-source heat pumps and energy efficient electric water heaters—and power them all with the sun! We’ve even found a few great ways to cool your home without using your air conditioner, which will help further reduce your energy consumption.

residential rooftop solar climate change
eat local fight climate change

“If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.” (Drawdown.org)

2. Eat Less Meat

Seriously! Adopting a plant-rich diet actually has a way bigger impact than you may think. The meat industry has an outsized impact on greenhouse gas emissions because of its sheer scale. Globally, raising livestock produces “7.1 Gigatonnes of Co2-equiv per year, representing 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Cattle alone are responsible for 65% of emissions, mostly because of methane—which has about 84 times more warming potential than CO2. Cattle are responsible for 20% of the United States’ methane emissions.

3. Travel Consciously

Emissions from transportation are actually greater than from electricity generation. That’s because generation is shifting from coal to renewables and natural gas. But cars still primarily run on good old gasoline. The best thing you can do for the climate is reduce the impact of your vehicle. Driving less often is the main thing you should strive for. Taking your car off the road for a year can save as much as 2.6 tons of CO2 emissions.

Realistically, most of us cannot survive without a car. But there are some steps you can take to make your travel more efficient:

  • Drive gently. Accelerating and braking slowly conserve energy output for these processes.
  • Keep your tires pumped up. Low tire pressure hurts your fuel economy.
  • Air condition only when necessary. This is an energy intensive process that increases your emissions.
  • Use cruise control. On long drives, this trick can help to save gas.
  • Carpool. This way, you’re splitting emissions between the number of people in the car.
  • Drive electric. Especially if you’re charging with renewable energy.
SunCarnival

4. Family Planning

We found this take from Drawdown interesting! It may be a hard one to swallow, but you can’t argue with the numbers. Having fewer children means fewer people in the world. One less person in the world means an average of 16 tons of energy not consumed by them annually. Adding a person means more flights, car rides, and demand for goods and energy. 

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How to Talk About Climate Change with Skeptics

Last year’s UN Climate Report has brought the existential threat of climate change front and center, so we wanted to share some dinner-table tactics that may help you feel prepared.

If you are inclined to dive into the thicket of disinformation, which may include “warming is a natural process” and mutterings about “the climate hoax,” here’s what you need to know:

First: no one is more qualified to have this conversation than you.

As a friend or family member, you are what communication experts call atrusted messenger.” People are more likely to believe those they trust and already have a personal relationship with. Other trusted messengers depend on the audience of course, but mostly they are standard authority figures; teachers, scientists, primary-care physicians and other health-care professionals, faith leaders, TV meteorologists, and staff at zoos, aquariums, museums, or nature centers are some examples.

You should feel empowered to cite these authority figures in defense of the facts. You’ve got the consensus of 97% of climate scientists on your side. But what if that isn’t enough?

Remember that oil giant ExxonMobil discovered the noxious effects of burning fossil fuels more than 40 years ago in 1977. Thirty years later, in Massachusetts vs. EPA (2007), the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must classify CO2 as a pollutant, given that “greenhouse gas emissions present a risk of harm to Massachusetts that is both ‘actual’ and ‘imminent.’” The government’s own research had already determined that “global warming threatens… a precipitate rise in sea levels, severe and irreversible changes to natural ecosystems, a significant reduction in winter snowpack with direct and important economic consequences, and increases in the spread of disease and the ferocity of weather events.”

Arrive prepared with strong narratives.

Psychology tells us that our minds are hardwired for storytelling, not logic and number processing. Charts and climate data are helpful to deepen one’s understanding of the effects of global warming, but not necessarily for those who are skeptical of the premise to begin with. To communicate complex topics such as how greenhouse gases work or how global warming brings about more intense weather conditions, the UN recommends leaning on analogies.

Examples of useful climate analogies:

1. The Heat Trapping Blanket

Think of greenhouse gases as a heat trapping blanket. Carbon dioxide, methane, and (to get real nerdy) chlorofluorocarbons are heat trapping gases. They’ve always existed in the atmosphere, but since the industrial revolution, we’ve drastically changed the proportions. The more of these gases we put into the atmosphere, the thicker the heat trapping blanket gets, raising the temperature of the planet.

This was first proven by ExxonMobil in 1977 and subsequently buried in their archives for decades while they pretended ignorance.

2. Loading the Weather Dice

Increased emissions are “loading the dice” for extreme weather events. Sure, climate and weather are different, but weather is determined by climate. While we can’t say an extreme weather event is caused by climate change, we know that climate change is “loading the weather dice” so to speak, making certain extreme weather events more likely—such as flooding, hurricanes, and polar vortexes.

3. The Boiling Pot

A link between global warming and extreme weather events is the warming ocean surface temperature. One reason climate change has been a slow and gradual process is that the ocean actually absorbs a huge amount of heat and carbon dioxide. In the last 100 years, the ocean’s surface temperature has risen more than 0.5º C. In the same way that boiling water releases steam, a warmer ocean evaporates more quickly. More evaporated water is essentially fuel for tropical storms, intensifying them. Models project a 45-87 percent increase in the frequency of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.

climate-strike-march-in-vermont
Climate-March-sign-in-vermont

Ground the conversation in local experience.

Bring the issue close to home. Climate change is ubiquitous — its effects can be felt in every region. If you’re traveling, try bringing up a climate issue local to where you’re staying. If you’re with family in Boston for example, bring up the threat and consequences of rising sea levels on Cape Cod. Folks in the Midwest may respond better to reminders of the record-breaking flooding and devastating hurricanes like Sandy and Harvey. And, of course, if you’re out west, the fires are hard not to think about.

More on the local impacts of climate change.

Forget about “climate change” and work together towards solutions.

Maybe they won’t buy your compassionately delivered climate change explanation, that doesn’t mean you can’t convince them to join you in embracing climate solutions! It turns out that even “climate truthers” can get on board with saving money on their electricity bills. Whatever your views are, supporting renewable energy just makes sense:

Want to learn more about solar?

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How to Compost

Composting at home is a cheap and easy way to create high-quality, nutrient rich soil for your garden! All you need to do is find a good place to keep your food scraps and keep an eye on the consistency. The average person produces 220 pounds of food waste a year—imagine if you turned all that into useful soil!

Composting is an art and a science

You have control over how your compost turns out. In the video below, Adam Deen shows us how to keep your compost at the perfect consistency to produce high-nutrient soil just in time for planting this summer’s garden.

Composting is an action all of us can take at home to reduce our carbon footprint.

By diverting food waste from our trash cans, we can avoid filling up landfills with products that leak potent greenhouse gases, like methane, when they decompose. You won’t be sending as much stuff to the landfill anyway, as compostables comprise about 30% of the average person’s waste. 

For a complete guide to composting at home, click here.


Saving the planet can start with you saving money. We can help. 

Composting is one of many solutions to address the climate crisis, but don’t stop there!

We know that achievable and affordable solutions to climate change exist. Of Drawdown’s top 100 solutions, #8 is solar farms (what we call Community Solar Arrays), and #10 is residential rooftop solar. Both of these solutions save the planet and save you money at the same time. It might not feel like one person going solar makes a difference, but Drawdown reminds us that individual actions really do add up to collective change.

Rooftop Solar Drawdown Solution

#10 Rooftop Solar

Rooftop solar is spreading as its cost falls, driven by incentives to accelerate growth, economies of scale in manufacturing, and advances in photovoltaic technology. 

$3.46 TRILLION NET SAVINGS – Drawdown.org

Community Solar Drawdown Soltuions

#8 Community Solar (available in NY only)

Solar farms tap the sun’s virtually unlimited, clean, and free fuel, using large-scale arrays of hundreds (like the ones here in the Northeast), thousands, or in some cases millions of photovoltaic panels. 

$5.02 TRILLION NET SAVINGS – Drawdown.org

Heat Pump Drawdown Solution

#42  Solar Heating & Cooling (available in VT only)

Heat pumps transfer heat from a cold space to a hot one. Highly efficient, they can dramatically lower building energy use for heating and cooling. 

$1.55 TRILLION NET OPERATIONAL SAVINGS – Drawdown.org

Home energy storage drawdown solution

#77 Energy Storage

Standalone batteries and electric vehicles make it possible to store energy at home or work. They ensure supply event when variable renewables are not producing. 

SAVINGS EMBEDDED IN RENEWABLE ENERGY – Drawdown.org

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How do I go solar?

The process for going solar is simple. It starts with filling out our get started form. You can do so by clicking the get started button. If you want to know more details about the process and the steps involved between signing up and turning on the power, click the button below to find out more.



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How to Read Your Solar Bill

Trying to make sense of your electric bill with Community Solar? Check out our guides below.

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Why We Need Climate Action Now

It’s 2020, here’s what we need to do in 10 years to make massive change

2020 means we’re only 10 years away from 2030, by which time we’re supposed to have accomplished a lot climate wise! Have you thought about all the reasons for changing the status quo besides climate change?

We’re currently on track for 3 °C warming by 2100. Just a 1.5 °C increase will destroy 70-90% of coral reefs, dramatically change regional climates, and accelerate water shortages in vulnerable regions and sea level rise. 

At a certain point, global warming will set off irreversible positive feedback loops. For example, the more the ice sheets melt, the less heat they can reflect away from the planet. In contrast, the ocean absorbs heat, meaning as Arctic sea ice disappears, there is more ocean available to warm the planet. 

But it’s not just about the climate.

Our current agricultural, waste management, and energy production practices are not sustainable. 

We should stop burning fossil fuels because they contribute to the climate crisis. They are also responsible for almost all air pollution, causing health problems in communities around the world. 

Fracking for natural gas is proven to be harmful to the environment, people, and freshwater resources, so shutting down natural gas pipelines is a critical part of addressing the climate crisis.

 

 

 

Everyone has the right to a healthy environment and a brighter future. By installing solar with a local company, you are creating jobs and generating clean energy right here in your community.

Do your part to fight climate change. 

Already a customer? Refer a friend to go solar and get rewards!

 

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Spreading Inspiration Through Film

This film festival is ready to make change

I recently attended an event that was truly the first of its kind: The world premiere of SunCommon’s Climate Action Film Festival. My friends and colleagues working the event buzzed with excitement. They had spent the better part of 2019 working towards this moment. And I’d never seen a movie theatre lobby so charged with activist energy. I felt and observed in people’s eyes a seeking look. The films inspired in many of us a desire to go out and do more—for our communities and the world.

“We recognize that the crisis that we’re facing with the climate right now is sort of beyond our individual voice, and so the goal was to bring together a lot of other voices to inspire others to get involved with the movement.” 


Patrick McCormack,
CAFF Creative Director

The curation team did a phenomenal job of selecting a diverse group of films showing many different ways of taking action. Each one is important, because there isn’t a single silver bullet for solving climate change. We need each kind of activism displayed in the nine films, and more! We need people researching how to keep carbon in the soil, and farmers willing to adopt new practices. We need people in communities across the world rallying together to say “No to new fossil fuel infrastructure.

CAFF Creative Director Patrick McCormack (right) and Duane Peterson III (left) watch a screen test before the Burlington premiere.

Today, visual storytelling—be it on TV or social media—is key to communicating one’s message across the far reaches of the media landscape. In a crowded infinite scrolling feed and endless streaming, all this content can feel ephemeral. The potency and urgency of issues we ought to care about gets lost in the shuffle. 

When you’re sitting in a theater with two hundred other people, however, something is different. There is an energy that instills in one a feeling that you want to start doing. Even as someone already working for a local solar company, I had to ask myself, am I actually doing enough?

A scene from "Water Warriors," in which multi-cultural group of land protectors fight to keep a natural gas exploration company out of their counties.

I was humbled by the quiet intensity of older climate activistsmore than anything, throughout these nine films, single-handedly halting the flow of Alberta tar sands into the United States. Even though they knew it meant a prison sentence, the “climate emergency” felt more important to them. 

The pure solidarity demonstrated in Water Warriors by New Brunswick activists and native tribes fighting a natural gas company pricked tears and roused cheers from the audience. 

But more than anything, throughout these nine films, I was struck by the willingness of people to dedicate their bodies, time, and resources to the greater good. 

So when we gathered in the lobby after the lights came up, the question on everybody’s lips was, “Now what?”

Tickets are still available for CAFF Screenings in Vermont and New York!

 

 

Visit ClimateActionFilmFestival.com to learn more!

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Hear from the Director: Our Interview with Ben Drummond, Co-Director of Blue Carbon

Set in the Snohomish estuary, this film, co-directed by Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele, helps to build awareness of “blue carbon” as a climate mitigation tool and to encourage more investment in wetland restoration at local, state and federal levels.

Blue carbon is carbon that’s captured and stored by coastal wetlands, helping to mitigate climate change. “You never go into a wetland and just restore one benefit,” says wetlands ecologist John Rybczyk. They improve water quality, provide salmon habitat, protect our shorelines, and benefit our climate.

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How long have you been making films? And what inspired you to get into environmental storytelling?

We’ve been telling stories about people, nature and climate change since 2006. We started down this path with a personal project called Facing Climate Change that profiled frontline communities in Iceland, Greenland and Norway to make the findings in an IPCC impact report more accessible. Since then we’ve collaborated with nonprofits, academic institutions, publications and others to create change through filmmaking, photography and interactive design. We particularly love to make science personal and to build teams to amplify the impact of purpose-driven work.

Where did the inspiration to make Blue Carbon come from?

We were approached by the folks at EarthCorps and Restore America’s Estuaries to help introduce the concept of blue carbon and to highlight the research and restoration work taking place in the Snohomish estuary.

Can you talk about the technical challenges and risks of creating this story?

When we first heard about the blue carbon concept we thought it sounded wonky and perhaps not the most engaging subject for a film. But as we learned more about how effective these habitats are at storing carbon, and the scale of restoration work going on in the Snohomish our interest grew. Then we met John Rybczyk from Western Washington University. John describes his fieldwork as a “reverse werewolf kind of thing,” because he can only go out during the full and new moon for the lowest daytime tides. His enthusiasm for mud is infectious and we quickly realized we had characters who could bring this science to life.

Since releasing Blue Carbon, what has the reception been like? Any unexpected outcomes?

The interest in the film has far exceeded our expectations. Blue Carbon continues to tour festivals almost two years after its release and we’ve heard the film has influenced some proposed federal legislation.

Climate solutions stories are difficult to do well. It’s rare to find compelling personal films that offer solutions at the scale of the challenge. We are thrilled to see CAFF highlight and celebrate these important success stories.

How can people get involved or take action after seeing Blue Carbon?

Restore America’s Estuaries has a great site with more information on both the science and current policy initiatives at: https://estuaries.org/bluecarbon

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