Environmental records shattered as climate change ‘plays out before us’
While scientists may argue over the degree to which the rise in bugs is directly related to the heating planet, the headlines last week were ominous: “Tick and Mosquito Infections Spreading Rapidly, C.D.C. Finds.” “Illnesses From Pests More Than Triple.“ All it takes is a walk in your back yard to confirm: the ticks are back with a vengeance, this year poised to be worse than any previous.
Lately there’s been some discussion about RECs and their status as it relates to solar in Vermont. First, a quick refresher: What, exactly, is a REC?
“A renewable energy certificate – REC (pronounced: rěk) is a tradeable, market-based instrument that represents the legal property rights to the “renewable-ness”—or non-power (i.e., environmental) attributes—of renewable electricity generation. A REC is created for every megawatthour (MWh) of electricity generated and delivered to the grid from a renewable energy resource. Electricity cannot be considered renewable without a REC to substantiate its renewable-ness.” (EPA’s Green Power Partnership, “Guide to Making Claims About Your Solar Power Use‘ from 2017)
And what does it mean when a REC is ‘retired’?
Renewable energy certificate “REC” tracking systems are electronic tracking systems that ensure that RECs are only “retired” once. “Retirement” of a REC means that the REC has been used by the owner; it can no longer be sold. (Renewable Energy Vermont REC Factsheet, 2016).
Some recent local debate raised a couple of misunderstandings that Solaflect would like to clear up:
- Solaflect’s more than 100 customers in Norwich are all legally solar, and the RECs have been retired.
- The RECs have also been retired on all solar power provided by Solaflect Energy community solar parks to the Marion Cross School, all buildings of the Town of Norwich, and the Norwich Public Library, and they all legally receive solar power.
- The rules governing RECs changed substantially in 2017; the default now is that RECs are transferred to the utility, and that they must be retired in Vermont.Nonetheless, Solaflect Energy has vigorously opposed the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) rules on RECs. We have provided both written and oral testimony on several occasions. The current rules encourage dishonesty at worst and muddled language and confusion at best, and they severely penalize Vermont businesses wishing to make solar claims when selling products to a national audience. Given the integrity and value of Vermont branding, particularly for environmentally related products (e.g. organic food), we feel this is a huge mistake on the part of the PUC.
- Vermont currently spends $3.25 billion on energy each year, the vast majority of it outside the state, often supporting highly damaging fossil fuel development — whether fracking in Appalachia, strip mining in Wyoming, or oil development and sometimes suspect politics in Oklahoma, Nigeria, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia or Russia. Every time a solar module is installed in Vermont, fewer dollars need to leaving the state to purchase energy for the next 20-30 years.
- There are zero jobs in Vermont from fossil fuel production. Solar in Vermont, on the other hand, supports dozens of businesses and more than 1,500 local jobs. However, the number of those jobs has declined significantly in the past year, due to Vermont policy changes (seehttps://vtdigger.org/2018/02/13/vermont-solar-job-losses-tied-net-metering-changes/).
Inspired Design Made Affordable
If the upfront cost of solar has kept you on the sidelines, or kept you from adding more, look no further. Through the expansion of a long-standing partnership with the Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU), we can now offer a Tracker with an unsecured loan for little to no money down, and at a loan interest rate of as low as 3.99%
Our goal has been to help those who would prefer to borrow funds to go solar, to do so. In most cases, Tracker owners can now go solar with an upfront payment of only 10% to 20% of the total cost of a Tracker, and a monthly loan payment that matches what they used to pay to their electric utility. Alternatively, they can finance the whole purchase with zero upfront payment but a higher monthly loan payment. And there’s no penalty if to pay down the loan early.
We’ve been impressed with VSECU’s customer service, simple and quick application process, experience and focus on solar loans. And note that despite the VSECU name, these solar loans are available to residents of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as well.
We encourage you to make your voice heard as the Public Utility Commission (PUC) goes through a much-needed review of Vermont’s solar program after a pretty disastrous 2017 per this chart. Solar installations declined fifty percent in Vermont last year.
If there were any doubt about the need for more solar (there isn’t), news of the Arctic stewing in temperatures 45 degrees above normal and days of above freezing temperatures in the middle of the Arctic winter are the latest in a litany of far-too-frequent reminders. “Scary stuff, on many levels,” as an Alaskan meteorologist put it. And yet the country (recent 30% import tax on solar panels) and our state are making it harder for Vermonters to go solar. The trend is difficult to fathom.
The last few years of healthy growth have put Vermont on the map as a national leader in the adoption of renewable energy. But as expected, as the chart indicates, the state’s revised net metering rules adopted last year drove solar installations back sharply to 2014 levels.
We can all play an important role in getting solar back on track in Vermont for the next generation of families, businesses and organizations that want to go solar. As you’ll see below, we have until March 15th to make our voices heard, and yours is a particularly important and experienced voice, having already made the decision to go solar. The Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) advocacy group is mobilizing voices around the state to reach out to the PUC to “counter the narrative” coming from utilities that solar adoption is happening “too fast”. To that end, REV is encouraging letters to the PUC sharing the tangible benefits customers have seen from going solar, sharing personal stories, and taken all together, quantifying the full value that net metering has provided to the state of Vermont. REV’s suggested topics for people to address include:
- Allowing customers to significantly reduce and stabilize their electrical bills and protect themselves from ever-increasing electricity rates
- Helping businesses to cut costs and survive, e.g. farms that use lots of energy
- Helping us all address our renewable energy commitment and combat climate change
- Allowing some customers to shoulder their neighbors’ energy burden
- Allowing off-site, community solar as an option for the roughly 70% of homeowners who can’t install solar at home. (Off-site, community solar is effectively no longer financially viable given siting penalties for solar installations imposed last year.)
Comments should be submitted by email to the PUC at email@example.com and it would be very helpful to blind copy (bcc) REV at firstname.lastname@example.org so they can track the pace of comments and messaging.
We thank you, future Solaflect Tracker owners thank you (they will, anyway :), and Vermont thanks you — in advance, for taking a few minutes to reach out to the PUC.
Solar Ambassador, based in Norwich, VT: We are growing our sales team here in the Upper Valley and are excited to find a full or part-time Solar Ambassador. Our Ambassadors are each supported by Solar Development Representatives (SDR) who drive new customer lead generation, meaning our Ambassadors are responsible for customer relationships from qualified lead to close, allowing them to focus on what they do best. The Solar Ambassador is an inside sales position for candidates who believe deeply in the critical need for renewable energy and like the challenge of selling a new product into the market. Intended as a full time role, in certain circumstances a part time role may be possible.
You can read the full job description here.
Solar Development Representative, based in Norwich, VT: We are growing our sales team here in the Upper Valley and are seeking a full time Solar Development Representative (SDR) to drive new customer lead generation. The SDR will work closely with our Solar Advisors to whom they introduce interested prospective customers, leading to customer site visits and eventual solar Tracker sales.
You can read the full job description here.
To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to email@example.com. In your cover letter, describe what sales experience you’ve had and/or success educating and persuading people about something new and different.
It’s now official: 2016 was the hottest year on record, making this three years in a row that have each successively taken the title.
Reminds us of the old saying: the best time to plant a fruit tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
All of us at Solaflect thank our many customers for voting us the Best Solar Company of 2016 in the Valley News Reader’s Choice awards, the second year we have earned top ranking. This is further inspiration to provide the highest quality solar array and the best possible customer service. Thank you!
Or, “Big Green Goes Green.” From Dartmouth News:
Construction has begun on a state-of-the-art solar panel adjacent to Moore Hall. The panel moves both up and down and sideways to track the sun throughout the day, making it 40 percent more efficient than a fixed unit. Equipped with an anemometer, the solar tracker takes a vertical position in high winds to prevent damage. It’s also designed to shed snow easily. The Norwich, Vt., manufacturer Solaflect has created a lightweight structure that uses less steel than other trackers.
“That makes it cost-effective. It’s really cutting edge technology,” says Timothy McNamara ’78, associate director of real estate for the College. Designed for household use, the panel will provide only some of the energy Moore consumes. But McNamara says it’s also intended to educate passers-by about the benefits of solar power.
WCAX TV-3 in Burlington, Vermont has profiled a recent Solaflect PV Tracker installation at East Haven Veterinary Services. Dr. Sally Schleuter explains that going solar was the logical and responsible choice, especially since the clinic is part of the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership. You can watch the profile below or visit WCAX’s news page. All of us at Solaflect thank Dr. Schleuter for leading the way with solar in vermont.
It’s a hot day in New England, with temperatures as I write over 90°F. Air conditioners are running hard, and the regional grid is at full tilt.
To supply the needed electricity, utilities and independent power producers are turning on their “peaker” power plants—facilities that sit idle most of the time, and only get used during periods of high demand. These power plants are extremely expensive, and when they are called into action regional spot-market wholesale electricity prices skyrocket.
I checked the wholesale prices five minutes ago. The screen grab below shows that the current price is over 87 cents per kWh! Read more
Temperatures, sea levels and carbon dioxide all hit milestones amid extreme weather in 2015, major international ‘state of the climate’ report finds
The world is careening towards an environment never experienced before by humans, with the temperature of the air and oceans breaking records, sea levels reaching historic highs and carbon dioxide surpassing a key milestone, a major international report has found.
Full article at The Guardian.
New electric vehicle incentives available to Vermonters
We’re offering up to $1,000 on qualifying plug-in vehicles!
For those in the market for a new car this summer, now is the time to go electric. For a limited time only, we are offering an instant discount off the purchase or lease of a new plug-in vehicle. There are approximately 200 incentives available to Vermonters, so it pays to act fast!
Climate news is generally dire, but real progress is possible. In fact, it is happening. The latest proof is Portugal’s new record for renewable energy supply: 4 straight days where 100 percent of its power came from renewables.
As renewable energy matures into an ever more popular and cost-effective source of electricity, we’re getting used to seeing some historic achievements from nations that have ramped up their clean energy infrastructure – and the latest glory goes to Portugal.
Recent figures show that the country ran on renewable energy alone for four days straight this month, completing an extraordinary 107-hour run between Saturday morning, May 7, and early Wednesday evening, May 11. During this record-setting window, Portugal ran on solar, wind, and hydro electricity entirely, without needing to fall back on power sourced from its coal and natural gas plants.
Governor Hassan signed the net-metering cap increase bill into law on Monday, May 2. Customers of Eversource, Liberty Utility, and Unitil can once again go solar. (Those with New Hampshire Electric Coop were not limited by the state’s previous cap, and continue to be able to go solar.)
The new limit on net metering is supposed to provide enough capacity for those who want to go solar this year. However, as happened in both NH and Vermont last year, the available cap easily could be hit sooner than expected. In other words, if you put off your decision to go solar until late in the year, you may find yourself out of luck and prevented from doing so by the new limit. Don’t delay! Contact us for a site visit today.
VSECU is offering special loans for Community Solar in Vermont, available for a short time only. The table below shows the terms.
For more information, visit https://www.vsecu.com/energy-savings/loans/specialized-loans/community-solar-loan.
10th LEAP ENERGY FAIR
Saturday, April 9, 2016
9 AM – 3 PM Event is FREE
Crossett Brook Middle School Gym, Duxbury, VT (5672 VT Route 100)
TOUR 75 exhibits and talk with dozens of experts about solar power, heat pumps, weatherization, energy audits, geothermal, biomass, pellet stoves, electric vehicles, and much more
LEARN how to reduce fuel bills, save energy and shrink emissions
PARTICIPATE in break-out discussions on: Sustainable Transportation; Air & Ground Source Heat Pumps; Going Solar; and Weatherization.
KIDS can enjoy a free show by Marko the Magician at 11AM
FREE electronics recycling onsite
Hosted by the volunteers of Waterbury LEAP. Visit www.waterburyleap.org for more details.
If you are in New Hampshire with Liberty, Eversource (formerly PSNH) or Unitil as your utility and have been waiting to go solar, you don’t need to wait hardly any longer. A friend in Concord writes, “The House just passed HB 1116 to expand net metering and to transfer regulation of the solar energy contribution to our state’s energy resources to the PUC. It was a strong voice vote. The same language has now been passed in the House and the Senate. Soon the House bill or the Senate bill will be passed through both houses and go to the governor for signing.”
If your interest in solar is due at least in part to concern about the Earth’s climate, heads up for an interesting looking seminar:
SAVE THE DATE
changing climate, changing minds seminar
Friday, April 8th – Saturday, April 9th
Video tutorials for DIY home efficiency improvements, info on advanced power strips to reduce vampire loads, and info on rebates for efficient appliances. Check ’em out.
Net metering in Vermont faces major challenges. If you care about the future of distributed, renewable energy in Vermont, please read on.
Vermont law (Act 99) requires net metering regulations to be revised as of January 1, 2017. The state’s Public Service Board (PSB) is charged with establishing these regulations. The PSB has released its draft of the new regulations. See http://psb.vermont.gov/statutesrulesandguidelines/proposedrules/rule5100 for the draft document and other details.
While subject to change between now and implementation, as written the draft regulations contain numerous problems. First and foremost is that the value of net metering for Vermonters will be significantly reduced once the new regulations go into effect in 2017. The silver lining is that the draft regulations grandfather current net metering values for any tracker installed in 2016. Additionally, the draft regulations hugely undermine the development of community solar. I’ll address that further down. Read more