What Are B Corporations, and Why Are They Important?
When it comes to the important purchases in our lives, we’ve never had more options to select from. Should you make your choice based on price? Quality? Customer reviews? Or perhaps the company behind the product is just as important to consider. Many businesses exist solely to make a profit, while others are established to also create a positive social or environmental impact. One way to know how a company stacks up is through third party certifications — like the stamp of a Certified B Corporation.
How does a company become a B Corp?
Becoming a Certified B Corporation entails a rigorous evaluation process, administered by the non-profit B Lab, in which companies must showcase their business impact in five key areas: environment, workers, community impact, company governance, and customers. B Corps are also obligated to be accountable to and create benefit for all stakeholders — not just shareholders.
SunCommon was created with the purpose of addressing the climate crisis by breaking down the barriers to clean energy, and we’ve been a Certified B Corp from the very start. While Certified B Corps must score at least 80 out of 200 on B Lab’s annual assessment, and the median score is an 84, SunCommon scored 106.1 in our most recent certification!
Every decision is an opportunity to live our values.
Obtaining B Corp status also requires that businesses honor a triple-bottom-line commitment to people (employees, customers, and communities), planet (we focus on our proud local roots in both New York and Vermont, as well as the world at large as we work to combat climate change), and profit. In other words, this commitment ensures that profits are not valued above people or planet.
We believes that every business decision is an opportunity to live these values. For example, when needing to buy new company cars, we committed to buying electric vehicles whenever possible, and when we source our materials, we focus as much as we can on local vendors (in order to reduce our carbon footprint) as well as on vendors who share our commitment to environmental and social justice.
As you can see, the B Corp stamp represents much more than just providing quality products or exceptional service; any company can buy and sell things, but a B Corp certification requires that companies bring immense care into every aspect of their work. So while reading customer reviews and making sure you’re getting a quality product are certainly good ideas, choosing a Certified B Corp means you’re also making a positive impact in the world by voting with your dollar.
If going solar with a Certified B Corporation sounds good to you, give us a shout! We’ll answer any questions and then start rolling up our sleeves for you right away.
(Affordable) Power to the People
Every day at SunCommon, we look for new ways to advance our mission of tearing down barriers to clean energy and using our business as a force for good. One way we do that is by continually evaluating and implementing products and programs that make solar financially accessible to as many people as possible.
Cost is often a barrier for folks switching to renewable power, so we provide our customers with three different financing options. By keeping upfront costs, monthly payments, and interest rates as low as possible, we help our customers save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of their solar installation compared to what they would have paid their utility for electricity.
1. Pay in full upfront
For those that can afford it, paying for solar panels outright without financing does offer the best bang for your buck. Apart from your utility’s grid service fees (typically $15-30 per billing cycle), you will pay nothing, or nearly so, for your electricity every month, and you will have made an interest-free, debt-free investment in your energy-independent future. Because systems generally last more than 30 years, customers can expect to recoup the initial cost in 12-18 years. That’s essentially free energy for half of the life of your solar system.
2. Short-term loans that meet (or beat) your utility bill
SunCommon has partnered with VSECU, a Vermont-based credit union, to offer 12-year financing plans with zero down-payment and interest rates low enough to match or beat what you currently pay your utility each month. Switching to a fixed solar loan payment like this can also protect you from utility rate increases down the road. And once your loan term is up, your energy is essentially free for the remaining life of your solar system. (Talk about affordable power!)
3. Even lower monthly payments
Our newest financing option through Sunlight Financial, a national energy lender, is a 20-year loan, with interest rates as low as 0.99%, and the lowest monthly payments we’ve ever been able to offer. What’s more, Sunlight has lowered the minimum credit score requirement to 640, which opens up financing to even more potential customers. And Sunlight can finance projects up to $100,000 (versus the more standard $60,000) — this means that for solar installations requiring a new roof, you can bundle both projects into a single loan at an interest rate likely lower than a home equity loan or line of credit. And of course, once that 20-year loan is paid off, your energy is free for the remaining life of the panels.
Don’t forget there are also federal tax credits and state incentives that can make your solar installation even more affordable. The state incentives are slightly different in New York versus Vermont, and all incentives and tax credits do change with time, so we suggest talking to a clean energy expert (like us!) to get the most up-to-date information.
If you’re reading this, you might already be sold on many of the benefits of going solar, such as doing a good thing for the planet, or becoming more energy independent. Our aim is to make sure that going solar also has financial benefits for as many people as possible, so that we can all play a part in building a brighter clean energy future.
Ready to dig into the numbers and make affordable power a reality?
You Won’t Be-LEAF These Awesome Fall Activities 🍁
It’s happening: fall is unfurling right before our eyes! Every day brings another little pop of color here, a corn maze there, and cider donuts are duking it out with everything pumpkin spice. In New England and New York’s higher elevations, peak leaf-peeping season is just about here. So if you haven’t had a weekend foliage getaway or a day-cation road trip through Vermont or New York, there’s no better time than right now. Here are some ideas to jumpstart your planning!
Our Favorite Fall Activities in New York and Vermont:
- Take a Hike — The Hiking Project is a terrific resource not just for finding a trail but for finding the right trail for your interest, fitness level, and experience.
- Go Back in Time — New England is a treasure trove of historic sites. Explore them with the help of Vermont’s Historic Sites and New York State’s Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
- Support Local Farms — Farm visits are a great way to celebrate the harvest while supporting local agriculture. New York Farm Tours and Vermont Vacation sites have gathered some of the season’s best farm activities including markets, farm tours, and pick your own operations.
Solar-Powered Fall Fun
If you’re looking for more specific suggestions, we’ve got those too — and they just so happen to be powered by SunCommon solar installations! (Please note: full participation at a few of these spots may be limited to ages 21+, but others offer family-friendly activities for all your road-trippers!)
In New York’s Capital District and Hudson Valley:
Hand Melon Farm in Greenwich, NY produces over 140 varieties of fruits, vegetables, corn, and ornamental fall gourds. They use sustainable practices, including only minimal use of pesticides. In 2014, they expanded their environmental commitment by adding a solar array. Stop by to learn more about the installation and hit the field to pick your own pumpkins!
Dutch’s Spirits at Harvest Homestead Farm in Pine Plains, NY is a farm distillery and tasting room. We helped them distill sunshine into electricity with a solar installation that provides power to their process and operations. Sample their Sugar Wash Moonshine, take a tour, and learn about the farm’s fascinating bootleg history. They’ve also got family-friendly activities including Pizza & A Movie Fridays and Dutch’s Food Truck on the Great Lawn.
Mead Orchards in Tivoli, NY dates back to 1916, so you know these are some deep roots. In the summer, there’s a terrific selection of fruit you can pick yourself: strawberries, blueberries, plums, cherries, and peaches. This time of year, the apples and pumpkins are ready for you. We installed their barn roof solar array back in 2019, so it’s no longer just the fruit trees benefiting from the sunshine!
Caledonia Spirits in Montpelier, VT makes its award-winning Barr Hill Gin from raw honey. It’s a fascinating process to learn about on a quick tour, or you can simply sip the afternoon away with their delicious cocktails on the patio. We installed a rooftop solar array in 2018 to power their distilling process and operations
The Alchemist in Stowe, VT is home to one of the most celebrated IPAs in the beer world: Heady Topper. Their brewery tours fill up fast in the foliage season, so if you don’t get tickets, you can just hang in the beer garden or get a couple of 4-packs to go. The Alchemist went solar in 2018, adding a 112-panel array to their existing membership in a Community Solar Array. Being the brew-gooders they are, they donate all the excess power they generate to the nearby Waterbury Senior Center.
Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea Co. in Stowe, VT is a terrific place to warm up and fuel up on a brisk fall day. Their coffee bar is open daily and stocked with sustainably sourced coffee and tea. For a true taste of Vermont, park your road-trip-vehicle-of-choice under their beautiful solar canopy, order a maple latte, and take in the stunning mountainside view!
There’s so much to savor about this season, and we’re lucky to be able to find a bounty of fall activities in New York and Vermont. Just hop in the car and hit the road!
And if you’re a business or homeowner ready to make hay with solar while the sun shines, we’re here for you:
Laughing Earth Farm Goes Solar with SunCommon
We love our customers, and not just because they are taking big impactful steps to combat climate change by going solar. Our customers show up in big ways for the environment even beyond installing clean energy.
Stewards of the Land and the Community
Laughing Earth has been an active farm for over 200 years, and as of December 2017, is protected by an easement to be Farmland Forever. The incredible stewards of this land incorporate regeneration into every step of their business. Get to know them in our video series!
Farming with Solar
“All our crops are fed by the sun. All our animals eat grains and grass that are fed by the sun. Getting solar power to fuel the energy we utilize on the farm was a no-brainer for us.”
Zack & Annie, stewards of Laughing Earth Farm, “are eager to grow connections within our human community, and to create a large family for ourselves made up of others who are also passionate about the food they put in their bodies and concerned about the impact our species has upon this earth.”
A Brighter Future
“Why would you not want solar power if you’re a farmer and you’re already working to maximize your output from your land? It’s just another product your land can be producing!”
Get to Know Ashley at SunCommon
“I fell in love with SunCommon’s mission and how they prioritize their company and their values and I knew I had to get involved. Now I’m able to help entire households, farms and businesses make the switch to solar energy, to clean energy. We’ve caused enough damage to our beautiful planet for far too long, and now I get to help my customers become part of the solution. That’s making a real difference.”
We hope loved learning about Laughing Earth Farm!
And, if you’re interested in learning more about solar for your home, farm, or business, you can reach out to us here:
With Battery Backup, You’re In Charge
While the West is plagued with extreme heat and wildfires, the East Coast is dealing with intense hurricanes and record-breaking rainfall. No matter which side of the country you’re on, it’s time to admit that the effects of climate change will continue to challenge us for the foreseeable future. That may be disheartening, but it doesn’t mean we’re powerless to reduce its impact in our daily lives.
One great way to protect ourselves against the impacts of our changing climate is home energy storage. If you have solar at your home, or are taking steps to have solar panels installed, you may have the opportunity to add solar battery backup which can keep your home running in the event of a power outage. So when the weather gets rough, your heat, well pump, refrigerator, oven, internet and more can keep on powering through.
How It Works
Your solar panels and your battery are a dynamic duo, each with an important role in supporting your energy needs. Solar panels generate energy during the day, feeding it to your battery which stores solar energy so you can use it when you need it — such as when the power goes out, or even just at night.
In contrast to generators, which are loud, dirty, and require regular maintenance to be functional when you need them, a home battery backup system is quiet and clean, and requires no upkeep. In the event of a power outage, your battery backup operates all by itself, automatically and seamlessly kicking in so you won’t even notice a disruption.
Powerwall Powers Through
While there are a few battery backup products on the market, SunCommon currently relies on the Tesla Powerwall, thanks to its proven success in powering Tesla’s electric vehicle fleet, as well as the 650+ battery systems we’ve already installed!
How long will solar batteries last on a full charge? The answer depends on whether you use your battery to run your entire house or just to provide power to “critical loads” like your furnace in the winter, well pump, fridge and freezer, etc. One Tesla Powerwall unit can store 14kWh of electricity, so if you keep your usage low, it’ll last about a day. Two Powerwalls will double your capacity, which you may want to consider if you live in an area prone to long-term power interruptions.
Another important factor is how long it takes to charge Powerwall with solar panels. This depends on how much energy your panels are able to generate, which in turn depends on a number of factors, including the time of year, cloud cover, and temperature. Under ideal conditions, when no power is being drawn, an 8kW solar array (about 21 panels) can fully charge a Powerwall in 8 hours.
A More Predictable Future
Why? For one thing, utility rates are unlikely to come down in years to come, and in fact, as the need for grid infrastructure repair and expansion grows, rates are only more likely to increase. With solar, you lock in your energy costs now and avoid any future rate increases. There are also financial incentives available not just for solar but also to help offset the cost of adding battery backup
Secondly, there’s a lot about climate change that’s out of our control. Extreme weather is something we’re just going to have to get used to. But we can also prepare for the uncertain future, starting right now. Installing a solar battery backup system at your home puts power, both literally and figuratively, where it belongs: in your own hands.
Feeling charged up about battery backup?
We’d be pumped to talk to you about it!
2021 SunCommon Community Service Day
For over a year now, much of the SunCommon team has been working remotely, and all-staff gatherings have been suspended. But graced with good weather and increased access to vaccines amongst our staff, we paused operations for a day to give each other the opportunity to reconnect after a year apart, provide service to our community, and expand our mission impact by planting carbon-sequestering trees.
On May 14th, 130 SunCommoners spread out across 8 different sites across Vermont and New York and worked with local conservation groups on a range of projects to expand sustainable ecosystems and clean water systems.
From planting pollinators at a CSA site to planting trees along riverbanks, our efforts allowed us to connect with the land and with each other. Below are some of the stories we captured.
Pollinator Planting in Kingston, NY
In 2019 and 2020, SunCommon installed two Community Solar Arrays at the Pointe of Praise church in Kingston to provide affordable, clean energy to the church and its parishioners. As part of our service day, we planted a pollinator garden at the newer array for the bees and butterflies, and to beautify the area.
Flood Plain Reforestation & Carbon Sequestration in Jericho, VT
Planting trees not only helps with flood resilience, it is also the biggest and easiest way to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change — so, a natural fit for SunCommon! Between three sites in Vermont, we planted over 3,100 trees (obliterating our previous tally of 1,200 in 2019) through our partnerships with Friends of the Winooski River and the Vermont Land Trust.
Tree and Shrub Planting at Esopus Creek, NY
In partnership with The Kingston Land Trust, we tackled a variety of conservation projects along the Esopus creek! Our efforts will help address climate change through carbon sequestration as well as mitigate flooding. The team also connected with their work on a deeper level by recognizing the indigenous history of the land.
Tree Planting in South Burlington, VT
We planted trees on a parcel of land conserved by the Vermont Land Trust to create “functional buffers.” These areas help protect wetlands and floodplains from further erosion, improve fish and bird habitats, along with so many more benefits. Learn more here.
When it comes to going solar, customer experience matters.
There are a lot of factors to weigh when deciding to go solar. From whether your property has a good solar profile, to the monthly cost, to your return on investment, it’s a decision that requires a thoughtful process.
But once you decide to go for it, there’s one more essential step: choosing the best solar company to handle the job. That means getting to know your potential solar providers before you sign the contract so you can be sure they’ll be a good partner from day 1 and for years to come.
Here’s where SunCommon shines like a bright and cloudless sunny day: as a locally owned and operated company, we’ve built our business model on being not just a great installer of solar, but also a good neighbor, dedicated to the satisfaction of our clients.
So what does it take to give our customers an amazing solar experience?
Good communication is our first priority
At SunCommon, we never underestimate the critical role that good communication plays in ensuring that your project goes smoothly — and also in making it an exciting (and dare we say fun?) customer experience!
We set expectations upfront so that the sometimes-complex process of going solar is as clear as possible. At every stage of the project, we want our customers to know what has been completed and what’s coming next. (In fact, we hire our staff not just for their techie know-how, but also for their people skills!)
Coming soon for new SunCommon Customers:
Bodhi is a platform that gives solar customers critical updates during their permitting, installation, and project commissioning phases.
Problem solving for the best answer
When you’re as passionate about your company’s mission as we are, everyone in the organization is committed to rolling up their sleeves to work for their customers. And it’s not always a cut-and-dry solution. Sometimes our technical knowledge and experience with financial incentives will do the trick, and other times we tap our ingenuity and perseverance to come up with the best solution.
Integrity matters. Big time.
At SunCommon, we know our clients make decisions based on our expertise and the quality of the information we provide. That’s why we take our estimates very seriously and build our pricing models based only on historically relevant and geographically specific data. Some national companies use national data—but are utility rates in Texas relevant in New York or Vermont? Not likely!
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
“I have been with this company for three years. I just reviewed the original estimates they gave me with my three years of bills. The estimates were right on target.”
SunCommon Customer | Delmar
Commitment that doesn’t quit
Lastly, you want to work with a solar company that will help you out beyond “flipping the switch.” If a problem arises after your solar is up and running, SunCommon will be there for you. And whenever you want to expand your solar capacity or add battery backup, you’ll already have a great relationship with a responsive, helpful, friendly local business you trust.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
“We started with an 8kWh system in 2012 that took about 4 weeks and expanded it with a 5kWh system just finished in early 2014. The expansion took only 2 weeks because all of the wiring was already there, and the newer system was joined to the old system.”
Karen F. | Hudson
Here’s another great way to get a feel for who we are:
Talk to one of our expert Solar Advisors! We’re always happy to answer your toughest questions and work hard to achieve your solar aspirations. Ready, set, go solar!
5 Easy Ways Toward More Sustainable Living in Saratoga
Let’s face it: thinking about climate change can get overwhelming really quickly. The world is an enormous place, and the degree to which humans (especially industry) negatively impact the environment can feel beyond our control.
If you’re thinking, “How can one person make any kind of difference, even if I really want to?” It’s true, you personally probably won’t. But once you shift the mindset from “I” to “we,” everything changes.
Take this blog, for instance. You’re not the only person reading it, and as the headline suggests, we’re going to give you some simple but useful ideas for more sustainable living in Saratoga. If you then share those ideas, they’ll spread further into the community. And if enough people embrace them, and share them again and again, we can truly help build a brighter future all together.
Top 5 Ways Toward More Sustainable Living in Saratoga:
1. Get on Board with Bikes
Have you heard about the CDPHP bicycle sharing program in the Capital Region? There are more than 400 bikes available at over 80 stations across Saratoga Springs, Albany, Schenectady, Cohoes and Troy. It’s a fun, earth-friendly, convenient way to get around, and it’s earth-friendly!
2. Tap Our Springs
We all know that Saratoga is known for its amazing spring water. Why not enjoy it at home by bringing empty bottles to Saratoga Spa State Park’s filling station? Kicking store-bought water to the curb saves you money, not to mention major energy costs and plastic waste. Different springs contain different minerals (and, some say, healing properties!), so do a little research ahead of time to find one that appeals to you.
3. Dig into a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) isn’t just good for you and your family, it’s a great way to sustain our local farmers. Pitney Meadows Community Farm offers a Pick-Your-Own CSA that gives you hands-on access to great produce all growing season long.
5. All Hail the Hybrid Cab
Sometimes you just need a lift, so when cab service is required, opt for a cleaner, greener fleet. Saratoga Hybrid Cab serves the Capital Region with local taxi and airport service using fuel-efficient, gas-electric hybrid vehicles.
Small changes (like composting) and bigger changes (like going solar) are both important, even if they seem like small drops compared to the tidal wave we need to address climate change. Not only do all these small drops add up, they also make a statement to others that the time is now to pool our efforts and make a bigger impact.
Looking to make an even bigger impact? Chat with SunCommon — Your go-to residential solar company!
We’re pretty sure you know some of the advantages of green energy, like breaking up with fossil fuels, but did you know that going solar could reduce your electricity bill by as much as 90%? Or that you could be eligible for New York State and Federal incentives to help cover the cost? (Heads up though, some of New York’s best incentives are being reduced soon, so don’t wait.)
Looking for the Best Solar Company?
Hi There. We’re Here for You.
OK, so you’ve done your research: solar power is the most cost effective renewable energy source that saves you money, raises your property value, works reliably, and is better for the environment. It’s decided — you’re ready to switch to solar! (Cue parade music and ticker tape ribbons!)
Tap Our Sunny Disposition… and Our Expertise!
Getting ready to join the clean energy family is an exciting time, and we’ve got a few feathers in our cap we can share so you know you’ll be working with the best solar company out there. We’ve won a few awards (check out our accolades here) and have been recognized by NYSERDA as a Quality Installer with Gold Status (which means we rank super high on their faves list). We’re a preferred partner with New York villages and cities for the development, installation, and financing of Community Solar Arrays.
We’re also thrilled to offer more than 15 years of installation expertise in New York, and we’re committed to giving you an incredibly positive experience, just like we did for thousands of other solarized New Yorkers — some probably right in your neighborhood.
More Reasons Why SunCommon is the Best Solar Company
Perhaps most significant to our customers is the fact that we’re locally-owned and operated. We live and work in the communities we serve, which means we have better insight into our customers’ particular needs. We’re not sure the same can be said about providers headquartered in Texas or California — in fact, we’ve heard stories of cost-savings estimates based on national stats that had no bearing on local conditions, which can be pretty misleading!
“Wow, SunCommon, sign me up!”
Smart plan! Spring is the ideal time to plan your solar project with us (find out why here), so if you’re ready to commit, here are a few things you can do to help get the ball rolling:
- Make sure your roof is in good shape and not in need of repair or replacement.
- Determine what direction the slope of your roof faces. You’ll want plenty of exposure to the sun, but that doesn’t always mean your roof needs to face south. Or, make sure there’s a sunny spot on your property where a ground-mounted system could go.
- Find out what financial incentives are available to you. In New York, there may be state incentives in addition to federal tax credits.
- Locate your most recent electric bill so we can estimate your power needs.
If you’ve decided that SunCommon is the best solar company to handle your project, give us a shout! We’ll answer any questions and then start rolling up our sleeves for you right away.
The NYSERDA Solar Incentive is Decreasing — Get the most out of solar while you can!
If this spring weather has you thinking about going solar, you aren’t alone! Spring is a great time to capture the sun’s rays because the days are finally long enough to bank credits for next winter. Another reason this spring is a good time to go or solar is that a major New York incentive is about to decrease, resulting in around $1650 of lost savings for the average solar system.
New York has the best solar incentives in the country
When you go solar at home in New York state, you’re eligible for several incentives that make solar more affordable. They include the federal tax credit, the New York state tax credit, and the NYSERDA solar incentive. This NYSERDA incentive will be decreasing sometime this spring. Read more about all New York incentives here.
What’s happening with the NYSERDA solar incentive?
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, better known as NYSERDA, allocates funding for residential solar projects in “blocks.” Each block has a different incentive rate, and they step down gradually over time. The current block is set at 35¢ per watt — which means for an average sized home solar system, the state will cover $3,850 of the purchase price, paying it directly to the installer for you.
But this current funding block is nearly depleted and will run out sometime this spring. Once it’s gone, the next funding block only provides 20¢ per watt, or about $2200 for an average sized system. Which means that waiting to go solar until summer could cost you $1650 in lost incentives.
Are all solar incentives going down?
It’s true that, by design, most incentives decrease over time and eventually go away. For example, the 26% federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar was scheduled to drop down to zero by the end of 2021, but in an unexpected move by congress, it received a 2-year extension as part of the recent stimulus bill. It is now scheduled to phase out entirely by the end of 2023.
The New York state solar tax credit covers 25% (up to $5000) of the cost of your system and does not currently have a scheduled end date.
Go solar before April 30th to lock in NYSERDA’s current rate
With long days and home improvement season officially upon us, now is the perfect time to look into solar (and even energy storage!) for your home. And to sweeten the deal, SunCommon will guarantee NYSERDA’s current incentive rate for anyone who signs up for solar before the end of April 2021.
Schedule a time to chat with one of our expert Solar Advisors before this incentive drops!
Our team is available for virtual home visits to explain the various options and programs that are available to your home, so that you can go solar, save money, and do good by the planet all at the same time.