Solar Saves New England Over One Billion Dollars

Solar Saves New England $1.1 BILLION

New Data makes it crystal clear. Solar helps everyone. There’s been debate across the region about how valuable solar is, and this analysis puts that debate to bed.  Newly available data demonstrates the enormous benefit of local distributed solar power to everyone in New England. From 2014 -2019 small scale solar in new england saved utilities and every resident more than 1.1 billion dollars. 

These massive savings stem from two main factors: 

  • Solar avoids the purchase of other types of electricity from the grid. In New England, that other type of electricity is usually fossil fuels. 
  • When solar operates, it reduces electricity prices, so it drops the cost of electricity for everyone in New England.

If solar is so great, why are incentives still dropping?

This newly available data has not been considered, as local utilities have consistently reduced incentives for solar in recent years. So, while there has been some debate, we can clearly say that this is going in the wrong direction, as we work to decrease costs for everyone while building our renewable energy future. 

So while incentives are dropping this year in Vermont, there is still time to get in on the current rates. Learn more here.

Why else is this new data important?

Not only has local solar effectively lowered utility bills for everyone, it has also reduced public health and climate risk from fossil fuel pollution. More than 99% of the time, when solar is producing energy at our homes and businesses, we’re turning off dirty power plants in New England. We’re burning fewer fossil fuels and we’re protecting the health of our local communities. Now that we’ve learned this new information, it’s time to get policies in place to accelerate this clean energy transition.

solar-saves-new-englanders-money-wcax-news-report-from-synapse-data
Click image above to view the WCAX report.

As we look forward to 2021, we are excited to help rebuild our economy by installing more solar. Not only will it help our local economy, but it will reduce our use of dirty fossil fuels. This new analysis makes it clear that solar is not only an environmentally-responsible investment, but a financially-responsible investment, as well.

So, 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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PUC Comment Conclusion

Solar homeowners are awesome! Over the last few weeks, more than 300 people from our solar community submitted a comment to our Public Utility Commission in support of net metering. We are so thankful for this amazing show of support. While we still don’t know the outcome, your voices matter. Check out why this is important for the future of solar.

Once again, our governor, with support from Vermont utilities, recommended that the value of solar be reduced. This will make solar power less accessible for families across the state and will hurt the solar industry as a whole. SunCommon and others across the industry are without question opposed to the recommendation. March 16th was the end of the public comment period to the Public Utility Commission regarding this recommendation.

The scientific community is telling us that we cannot drag our feet in addressing the climate crisis, and that we all need to act now in reducing our dependence on carbon-based fuels. At SunCommon, we see it as our obligation to do everything we can to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy across our state. So of course we submitted our own official comment to let the Public Utility Commission know that we strongly oppose decreasing the value new customers would get for the clean energy they produce.

We started SunCommon in 2012 as a market solution to climate change, to build a community of people inspired to address the climate crisis, and to work together toward a future powered by 100% renewable energy. We know that there is, and will continue to be, opposition from fossil fuel and utility companies whose approach is to make slow or modest steps, so as to not “rock the boat.” The problem is that we’ve been going slow for 30+ years. — their model means continuing to burn harmful fossil fuels while paying astronomical infrastructure costs to transport it — meanwhile the climate crisis keeps accelerating.

We know that if thousands of people speak up or vote with their dollars for renewable energy, we will see the transition to the electrical grid we need. This is why we asked you to speak up in support of progressive legislation that moves us in that direction. We are on the right path, but we still have a ways to go, and we want to keep doing this together. 

This round of public comments for our state’s net metering program has wrapped up, and we are now awaiting the PUC’s deliberation. Regardless of the final decision,  we at SunCommon will always be working towards that future powered by clean and local renewable energy. 

Thank you again for making your voice heard!


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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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As the Heat Rises, Solar Drives Northeast Grid Savings

As the Heat Rises, Solar Drives Northeast Grid Savings

SunCommon report shows $30MM reduction in energy costs during heat wave.

A third-party analysis, released by SunCommon, demonstrates how the solar energy produced by a relatively small number of homes and businesses benefits all electric ratepayers. New England and New York wholesale costs were decreased by 14% and 6% respectively, totalling $30 million dollars, when temperatures soared across the region in the July heat wave. The report cites as much as $6.7 million in savings on just one day of the July heatwave, as solar systems across the region helped meet its elevated energy needs. Future heat waves could drive even higher electric demand that will be similarly tempered by the region’s solar power.

 

“We’ve always known that solar contributes in a big way to our region’s energy needs on long, hot, sunny summer days.  We wanted to put numbers to it,” said James Moore, one of SunCommon’s co-founders. “$30 million in savings in one week is impressive! The amount of solar produced was the equivalent of removing 1.37 million homes from the grid.”

Synapse Energy Economics Reports on Solar Impact to Wholesale cost

SunCommon hired Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., a research and consulting firm, to analyze the financial impact of solar to the New York and New England electric grid between July 1 and July 7.  In the midst of a heatwave, solar systems produce huge amounts of power during the same hours that energy prices soar.

“Solar power is the perfect match for heat waves.  During a heat wave, energy demand goes through the roof and so do energy costs.  The power that solar produces allows our utilities to buy less of the most expensive – and often the dirtiest – energy,” explained Patrick Knight of Synapse Energy Economics.

 

“I love checking my solar monitoring on these long, sunny days,” said Ryan Dudley, a SunCommon solar customer and middle-school teacher.   “Knowing that my solar system produces enough power to keep up with our needs, and sends extra savings to my neighbors and community is even more satisfying.  I feel like I’m doing my part.”

Regional Energy Savings for All during a Recent Heat Wave from Solar Power

The Synapse-authored analysis reports localized energy savings that strongly reflect the penetration of solar in each New England state and New York county.  

  • Massachusetts boasts half of New England’s solar capacity and contributed $9.3 million in savings from solar during the period analyzed.  
  • Vermont, the smallest of the New England states by population, hosts 17% of its solar capacity and contributed $1.3 million in savings.
  • The Hudson Valley hosts nearly 15% of New York’s solar fleet, which produced $900,000 in savings during the week studied.
  • New York City similarly hosts about 15% of New York’s solar, but because of the higher energy demand in the city, solar contributed $3.1 million in savings to the NYC energy system.

“Every home and business-owner who’s made the decision to go solar should know that they did more than just make the right decision for the planet.  Their solar systems are contributing significant energy savings across our region on hot, summer days,” said James Moore, SunCommon co-founder. “As the climate warms, and heat waves become more frequent, our solar systems will only do more to temper energy costs.”

Want to read the full report? Enter your information below to access the full pdf version.

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How SunCommon and GMP Partnered to Remove Even More Barriers to Solar

SunCommon is committed to serving all Vermonters. That’s why we created a Community Solar Program that removes even more barriers to entry.

In 2017, we launched a Low- to Moderate-Income (LMI) Community Solar Program and we aim to do more in 2018. The first array was in partnership with Green Mountain Power (GMP) and was built on their Service Center Roof in Middlebury. Fifty percent of that array was reserved for Vermonters at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. (For a family of four, that’s a monthly income of $4,100.)

 

According to Efficiency Vermont’s white paper, Mapping Total Energy Burden (July 2016) “a substantial number of Vermont households live in fuel poverty or are in danger of falling into such poverty […] In Vermont, high electric burdens are most often borne by households with low incomes. Many low-income Vermonters with high energy burdens may find energy costs competing with other necessities like housing, food, and medicine.”

 

To make our already accessible Community Solar Program more appropriate for LMI Vermonters, we removed even more barriers to entry. The only qualification for these customers was that they have good bill payment history with GMP. There was no minimum credit score required and as always with SunCommon, no down payment. Community Solar members will receive a 7% discount on all of the power they receive from their membership.

 

There was great response to this program and SunCommon had dozens of signups within days of launching. The Community Solar Array was filled quickly and through this program, 15 LMI households are now taking advantage of the financial savings of solar and getting to boast their support of clean, renewable energy. We are actively working to create more LMI opportunities in Green Mountain Power territory and for the other utilities.

If you are interested, sign up on our waitlist.

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Vermont Business Magazine: Vermonters want more solar in their towns

A Renewable Energy Vermont sponsored statewide poll indicates that Vermonters want more solar in their towns. Three-quarters of Vermonters surveyed support building more solar farms in Vermont (76%). Additionally, Vermonters are just as supportive of building more solar farms in their own towns (75%). Support for more solar farms extends across party lines, with Democrats (87%), Independents (65%) and Republicans (58%) all strongly supporting building more solar farms in their towns.

Regarding the pace of solar energy deployment, 77% of Vermonters believe the current pace of solar development is about right or should be going faster. A majority of Vermonters believe that the current pace of solar energy use in Vermont is about right, while 23% believe the pace of solar energy development is not going fast enough. Only 16% believe that solar energy use is going too fast.

A professionally conducted telephone poll of 300 Vermont adults was conducted from February 1-4, 2016, by Anzalone Liszt Grove and paid for by the Renewable Energy Vermont Education Fund (REVEF). The statistically significant poll had a margin of error of 5.66%.

“These results confirm the support for solar we are hearing from communities and residents across Vermont,” explained Rod Viens, Chair of the REVEF board. “All across the state, we hear from people that solar energy gives communities power and increases the state’s self-reliance with locally generated renewable energy that contributes to combat climate change. More and more communities are exploring opportunities to build solar projects and more and more customers want the financial and environmental benefits of going solar.”

The specific wording of the questions asked, was:

  • Do you support or oppose building more solar farms in Vermont to expand the use of solar energy?
  • Do you support or oppose building more solar farms in your town to expand the use of solar energy?
  • Thinking about the pace of solar energy use in Vermont, do you believe Vermont is going to fast in its use of solar energy, not going fast enough in its use of solar energy, or do you think its current pace is about right?

Vermonters want more solar in their towns

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Shelburne News: Community Solar Array projects on the rise

by Lynn Monty

SunCommon of Waterbury Center will build a one-acre solar array on Hinesburg resident Marilyn Brown’s property at 534 Fletcher Farm Road. The Hinesburg Planning Commission reviewed the project on Nov. 25 and voted 6-0 in support of the array that will serve about 30 Vermont households.

“We feel the size and scale of the proposed renewable energy facility is in keeping with both Hinesburg’s Town Plan and land use regulations,” said Joe Iadanza, Chairperson of the Hinesburg Planning Commission.

Iadanza said the location at the end of Fletcher Farm Road is well suited for the installation because it will have no adverse impact on significant scenic views or vistas from public roads, community parks and public trails.

The solar array avoids sensitive natural features on the property in question, including a mapped stream and wetlands, Iadanza said. It is also aligned with many of the town’s energy and business development goals.

“I think it is important to generate more of our electricity in a renewable way,” said James Donegan of the Hinesburg Planning Commission.

Nationwide, only about 15 percent of households can host rooftop solar arrays. As a result, according to GTM Research’s 2015 US Solar Market Insight Report, “Out of a total of over 100 million households in the US, more than 80 million are left out of the solar market today.”

SunCommon developed the Community Solar Array Program as a way of addressing that shortfall in Vermont. The Community Solar Array Program launched one year ago and serves more than 500 Vermont households. Green Mountain Power customers join the program to receive credits produced by the group array to reduce or eliminate their utility bill. Solar credits are recognized on a customer’s utility bill at a 7 percent discount from their normal rate for electricity. For every $100 they would normally spend, they’ll now spend $93 for the same power as part of the array.

“It was a huge discovery we made last year,” said SunCommon spokeswoman Emily McManamy. “Many of our customers couldn’t go solar with us for a whole host of reasons from wrong roof orientation, tree shading, finances or lack of tax appetite. Some folks just don’t want rooftop solar on their own homes, but want to support the growth of solar arrays in Vermont.”

Community solar member Bruce Baldwin of Middlebury said he and his wife joined the Monkton community solar array in March with a 7 percent share.

“We immediately began seeing benefits,” he said. “Our CSA share generates enough credits to cover our electric bills over the summer, pay for our two heat pumps and take us into the winter with a $726 credit on our electric bill. We’re saving money and reducing the amount of oil we burn helping to make our little corner of the world just a bit greener.”

But Attorney General Bill Sorrell said most community solar projects cannot be sold as solar, renewable or clean because solar companies sell the renewable energy credits attributed to the electricity generated by the solar panels in a regional market in order to help finance the project. “In such cases, the energy used by the consumer is not, legally speaking, renewable or solar energy, it is simply undifferentiated power,” he said in a Dec. 8 press release.

SunCommon co-founder Duane Peterson said in response to the unfolding climate crisis, sound public policy created renewable energy credits that have driven the installation of a lot of solar arrays throughout New England.

“It’s great when utilities are required to put money into building clean energy facilities,” he said. “Renewable energy credits have helped SunCommon bring community solar to 500 Vermonters, providing CSA members the opportunity to help generate renewable energy while saving money on their power bills. SunCommon is committed to making clear to our customers how all this works, as we continue this innovative program which makes it possible for all Vermonters to help generate renewable energy.”

Many community solar purveyors require customers to purchase the panels, which are installed on someone else’s property, Peterson said. SunCommon rejected that model because it is challenging for customers when they move. “Our CSA members pay monthly for shares with the ability to leave anytime through a cancellation fee,” he said. “That’s proved popular, and part of why SunCommon has built 20 CSAs while others limited themselves to just a few.”

Act 56, signed into law by Governor Shumlin in June, requires Vermont utilities to meet a renewable energy standard similar to those in place in other New England states. As renewable energy requirements of this law increase over time, the sale of renewable energy credits into the regional market for projects in Vermont are expected to diminish, said Christopher Recchia, Department of Public Service commissioner.

Solar projects are a vital component of Vermont’s renewable energy goals, and it is incumbent on solar companies to communicate clearly with customers about the terms and benefits of their contracts,” Recchia said.

Hinesburg solar credits will be sold this year, Peterson said. “With Vermont policy to change next year, we’ll see what happens to them thereafter.”

Check out the story in the Shelburne News!

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Waterbury Record: SunCommon expands in Waterbury

SunCommon expands in Waterbury

By Stanley Blow III | December 24, 2015

Government projects have been in the spotlight lately in Waterbury — the new $5 million municipal complex, and the $130 million makeover of the State Office Complex that will again be home to 1,200 state workers.

But private development projects have been moving right along, too. Among them are a headquarters building for SunCommon, a coffee center on Route 100 in Waterbury Center, and housing on Blush Hill and Perry Hill.

SunCommon offices

In just under four years, SunCommon — a local solar installation company — has grown from 16 employees to 65.

The growth is especially evident at all-company staff meetings on Monday mornings.

Initially, all the employees could fit around a single table in the company’s rented space at the Energy Mill in Waterbury Center. Now, SunCommon has to book space at the Best Western Plus in Waterbury for everyone to fit into the room.

Local developer Pat Malone is working on a new 14,000-square-foot office building for SunCommon on Route 2, on land that’s been used in the past for a flea market.

Malone will lease about 60 percent of the building —8,500 square feet — to SunCommon, and hopes to rent the rest to other businesses.

Much like SunCommon’s current space, the new building will be net-zero, meaning it will produce as much energy as it uses, said company co-founder Duane Peterson.

The roof will have solar panels, and everything — right down to the heating system — will be sun-powered.

“If we wanted to burn fossil fuels, we’d have to pour them on the ground and light them,” Peterson said of the new building.

The company will install charging stations for the electric cars in its fleet; the chargers will also be available for public use.

The new office will be close to downtown, which will give employees easy access to shops and restaurants, which should, in turn, help out the village economy, Peterson said.

Malone said the offices could be completed as soon as next spring, especially given the unseasonably mild weather this year. “I sent a letter to the weather gods, and they’re cooperating,” Malone said.

 

SunCommon expands in Waterbury

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WAMC: Solar and Wind Tax Credit Extended

Congress has extended a federal tax credit for solar installations that was set to expire at the end of 2016. Industry operatives in the region say it will provide stability in a growth sector that could have stalled.

The 30 percent income tax credit for solar investments has been extended by Congress for another five years. The measure was part of the budget deal passed last week. The tax credit has two parts: the solar tax credit has been extended through 2021. It will be phased down over the five years to 10 percent. A production tax credit for wind will be extended through 2019 with a phase-out timeline.

Vermont Public Interest Group Clean Energy Advocate Ben Walsh says the ramp-down in the plan makes sense. “What this means for Vermont is that state planners, that regional planners that the renewable energy industry and the solar industry will be able to plan and predict the amount of renewable energy that’s going to be coming on line much more reliably. And that’s good even over and above simply the fact that so much renewable energy is going to be built because of this.”

Vermont’s largest utility – Green Mountain Power – has been investing heavily in renewable energy including solar and wind. Communications Executive Kristin Carlson says they are focused on power that is generated and used closer to the community. “Our customers are telling us that they want to be able to access the latest technologies. They want to be able to go solar. And so to the extent that the customers want to do this, this will provide a benefit for them.”

Waterbury-based SunCommon Founder and Co-President Duane Peterson said clean energy advocates had been led to believe that federal support for renewables would end next year and his company was preparing for the tax credit cliff when Congress suddenly instead extended it. “Whomever owns a solar system may apply to the federal government for an income tax credit equal to 30 percent of the entire project cost. So that is a deduction from the taxes that you owe on your next return.”

To continue reading Solar and Wind Tax Credit Extended, click here.

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Times Argus: Solar firm pops into town for a month

Solar firm pops into town for a month

By Gina Conn | December 22,2015

Since Nov. 28 and continuing through Wednesday, SunCommon of Waterbury Center has hosted a pop-up store — a short-term lease space — at 13 Main St. The storefront most recently housed a Verizon Wireless outlet.

Pop-up retailing is a modern business phenomenon also known as flash retailing.

“It’s a fun way to work within the community and participate with local businesses in ways that we don’t always normally get to,” said Joel Rhodes, solar community organizer for the Montpelier area and coordinator of the pop-up shop.

SunCommon’s monthlong stay in Montpelier hasn’t been solely about solar, but instead has helped promote local art and other businesses from the region.

On Dec. 4, for example, the space was highlighted in the Montpelier Art Walk, with SunCommon collaborating with a dozen central Vermont artists to display their works. The artworks that were hung in the storefront for the Art Walk event have remained on display during the entire month of SunCommon’s presence at 13 Main St.

“We wanted to make the space beautiful with local artists,” said Rhodes. The works include landscape photography and local clay sculptures, and some of the artists featured are solar homeowners themselves. One of them writes about the experience with solar in a piece that remains on display along with examples of SunCommon projects that include both residential installations and community solar arrays.

Other events that have been held in the pop-up space include well-attended tastings with Caledonia Spirits of Hardwick, Vermont Creamery of Websterville and Dunc’s Mill Rum of St. Johnsbury.

The monthlong pop-up presence has also been a bonus for the city. Ashley Witzenberger, executive director of Montpelier Alive, said, “We love having (SunCommon) downtown. They brought in some really great partnerships, which brought even more people into our downtown.”

SunCommon also hosted a pair of solar workshops — an introduction to solar basics and a workshop on solar heating.

“We believe that everyone has the right to a healthy environment and safer world, and clean energy is where that starts,” said Rhodes.

“Our mission is to tear down the barriers to renewable energy by making it easy and affordable to go solar,” he added, noting that one of those barriers is education — hence, part of the purpose of the pop-up.

To continue reading Solar firm pops into town for a month, click here.

Curious which solar option is the best fit for you?

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Rutland Herald: Vt. solar community lauds action by Congress

By Josh O’Gorman | Vermont Press Bureau | December 19, 2015

MONTPELIER — Climate advocates and members of the renewable energy industry are celebrating a move by Congress to renew tax credits for wind and solar projects.

Congress reached an agreement this week for a five-year extension of tax credits for the installation of solar projects and the operation of wind projects, allowing the credits to continue until 2022.

“This a win for Vermont’s economy, and the nation’s and world’s environment,” said Ben Walsh, climate and energy program director for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “You’re talking about hundreds more jobs in Vermont than we would otherwise have, and nationwide, gigawatts of energy coming online.”

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents more than 1,000 renewable energy companies nationwide, the extension will result in more than $133 billion in new, private-sector investment and will triple the nation’s solar power output to 100 gigawatts — enough to power 20 million homes — by the year 2020.

The tax credits differ depending upon the type of renewable energy project. For solar, customers receive a tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of installation. For wind, the customer will receive a 2.3-cent tax credit for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated in the first 10 years of the project.

While the tax credits were set to expire in about a year — Jan. 1, 2017 — Andrew Savage, chief strategy officer for AllEarth Renewables, said the clock was running out for customers looking to make decisions regarding their energy needs.

“Businesses are making growth decisions now for 2017, so it’s important to have the predictability that will allow businesses to continue to grow, hire and invest locally,” Savage said. “Solar, by its nature, is an up-front capital investment, and this tax credit helps bring down the cost of investment.”

Savage also discussed what the impact would have been to renewable energy projects if the tax credits had not been renewed.

“We definitely would have seen a slowing down and scaling back of the industry, in Vermont and nationally,” Savage said. “That would have meant fewer businesses going solar, fewer homes going solar and fewer jobs in solar.”

Duane Peterson, co-president of SunCommon, a Waterbury-based solar installer, celebrated the action by Congress.

“This is great news for Vermonters looking to repower our state with clean energy,” Peterson said. “Congress knows that solar energy protects our climate, creates good-paying jobs and saves homeowners money on their utility bills. Supporting solar is good for America and good for Vermont.”

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