Why we go solar

Earth just had its warmest September on record — by a long shot

It’s virtually certain that in January 2016, the planet will set a new record for the warmest calendar year on record. A key data set that tracks global average surface temperatures, which comes from the Japan Meteorological Agency, shows a huge jump in temperatures in September as compared to average.

[full article cont’d]

Deadline #2: GMP net metering cap

Vermont law requires each utility to accept new net-metering connections until all of the net metering capacity as a whole is equal to 15 percent of the utility’s peak demand. Green Mountain Power has now reached more than 11 percent. In July, they were at just over 9½ percent. At this rate of new connections, GMP will reach its cap in less than half a year.

With the Federal tax credit deadline beginning to loom, the remaining net metering capacity could easily accelerate, bringing GMP to its cap even more quickly. Once it reaches the cap, GMP has the legal option to prevent new solar net metering connections from going forward, or to allow them but with reduced net metering credit.

In short: if you get your electricity from GMP and don’t move solar to the front burner now, you could easily miss out on today’s simple, high-value solar.

Every day you wait is a day that you pay the utility for your power rather than generating your own. Every day you wait is a day with increasing carbon emissions and decreasing ability to reverse the global warming trend.

If you have been waiting on solar because it seems intimidating, perhaps too complicated, fear not. Going solar is incredibly simple and plain sensible. Call or email us to dispel your fears and do right by your head and your heart.

Upcoming public presentations

Do you prefer to learn about topics with live conversation instead of by browsing the internet? We are offering several public presentations/Q&A sessions over the coming weeks. Please join us, and bring all your questions.

Refreshments served at all events.

  • Thursday 10/15, 7 pm
    Latham Library, Thetford VT
  • Monday 10/19, 7 pm
    Brattleboro Food Co-op, Brattleboro VT
    Public meeting room
  • Monday 10/26, 7 pm
    Upper Valley Food Co-op, White River Junction VT
    Upstairs meeting room (entrance around back)

We are in the process of scheduling additional events. To be sure to find one that fits your location and schedule, give us a call at 802-649-3700 or send an email. Even better, call or email to have your own conversation whenever is convenient for you. We are happy to discuss all things solar over the phone or by email or in person with a free home visit.

Deadline #1: Federal tax credit

Solar purchases are eligible for a Federal tax credit worth 30% of the purchase. This applies both to residential and business purchases of solar.

The law that gives the credit expires at the end of 2016. To qualify for the credit, a solar array must be installed and in operation by December 31, 2016. Payment towards a solar array that has not yet been completed does not qualify for any credit. After that date, the credit for residential solar completely goes away. For businesses, the credit drops from 30% to 10%.

It is extremely likely that many homeowners and businesses who have been thinking about going solar but have been putting it off will see this coming year as the time to get off the sidelines. With limited numbers of trained installers and finite manufacturing capacity, we will not be able to ensure that all comers can have a Solaflect Tracker installed in time to qualify for the credit. If you wait until next summer—the time of year that most people remember to put solar at the top of their to-do list—you could easily be too late to get into the installation schedule for 2016.

Whether you think you will do best with a Tracker on your property or hosted off-site at our Community Solar Park, each day you wait is a day closer to risking the loss several thousands of dollars worth of tax credit. Think about it: if you are pretty sure you want to go solar eventually, why wait? Why keep paying out to the utility when you could begin receiving solar savings now? Why risk being a day late and a dollar short?

FAQ: How large is a Tracker?

A Solaflect PV Tracker carries 16 solar panels. As a group, they cover an area of 20 feet wide by 12 feet high. The riser holds them up a few feet off the ground so that it won’t be a snow plow as it rotates in wintertime.

The space the Tracker takes up visually depends on the time of day and season. If it is vertical (for example before sunrise and after sunset) and facing directly at the viewer, it looks at its largest. Read more

VT Digger commentary: solar vs. “solar”

Solaflect Energy is proud to be a part of helping change our energy economy to one that is based on clean renewables. We do our work because we want a better world, a world with healthier people, a stable climate, more vibrant ecosystems, and an economy that everyone can afford to live in. Solar is our contribution toward those goals. And because we believe in solar, we don’t play games with it. When we tell our customers we are selling them solar energy, we mean it. We don’t do the bait-and-switch that some other companies do.

Vermont Law School professor Kevin Jones has a commentary in VT Digger on this issue.


Editor’s note: This commentary is by Kevin B. Jones, PhD, who is a professor of energy technology and policy at Vermont Law School. He can be contacted at energyclinic@vermontlaw.edu.

The sharing economy and solar energy seem like such a natural combination, kind of like apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Green Mountain Power and Yeloha’s recent press release announced that “Yeloha and GMP will make it possible for individuals who don’t have a roof suited for solar to subscribe online to power produced by other homeowners and businesses, essentially going solar on someone else’s roof.”

It almost sounds too good to be true and perhaps it is…

Read the whole commentary at http://vtdigger.org/2015/10/07/kevin-jones-too-good-to-be-true/.

If you have a shaded roof or for any other reason can’t go solar with panels installed at your home, you can honest-and-truly go solar with hosted, off-site equipment at the Solaflect Community Solar Park.

The best solar homes are efficient solar homes

Energy from the sun is the most abundant and, certainly in the long term, lowest cost way to power our lives and society. But there’s no sense in generating energy only to waste it. Efficiency Vermont is a terrific source of information—and often discounts or rebates—for making your home or business more energy efficient. Their latest email newsletter includes details on improving windows with low-e storms rather than full replacements. Check it out.

low-e windows

“Why Your Business Should (Finally) Go Solar”

Solar Energy

So says Vikram Aggarwal in Inc. magazine:

If you’re a business owner, installing a solar energy system might seem like a risky move in a complex and confusing market. You may have heard about major Fortune 500 companies going solar, but thought that it might not be feasible for your organization. Maybe you’re considering installing solar panels at some point in the distant future, when your organization can afford to make a major investment in something that seems like an environmental “good” rather than a strategic financial decision.

Time to shake off that old way of thinking and join the growing chorus of smart business owners that have discovered the commercial solar benefits for business. Solar isn’t just for Intel and Wal-Mart anymore. Businesses of all sizes are capitalizing on the financial opportunities of installing solar, proving that a solar energy system is a key strategic decision that virtually guarantees a solid financial return for your business.

Full story continues…

Solaflect Community Solar Park outpaces top muni bond fund

According to US News & World Report, the #1 long-term, national municipal bond fund has—over the past ten years—returned an an annual rate of 4.8%. This is the longest time span that US News reports.

Our estimate for the Internal Rate of Return on a Solaflect PV Tracker hosted at our Community Solar Park is 5.0%, over 20 years. The reason we show a comparison with a municipal bond fund is because that sort of investment is non-taxable, and solar net metering provides non-taxable value to residential electricity customers: net metering reduces your cost of living, freeing up your money for other things, but does not provide cash income which would be taxable.

A key assumption in this estimate is that electricity rates with Green Mountain Power will rise at an average annual rate of 2.65%. We use this assumption because that has been the average annual increase in residential electric costs in Vermont over the past 25 years. If rates rise more quickly in the future, then the return on a Tracker increases because it is saving you more than had been assumed.

US News - best long-term national municipal bond fund 2015-09-28b
This screen grab, taken on September 28, 2015, shows US News & World Report’s listing of the #1 long-term, national municipal bond fund. This fund has had an annual return of 4.8% over the past 10 years, less than the expected return from a Tracker at the Community Solar Park. Click on the image to see it shown larger.

Be aware that many solar companies describe the expected Return on Investment (ROI), whereas the estimate above is for the Internal Rate of Return (IRR). These are calculated in different ways and cannot be compared. The IRR is a superior measure of expected performance, because it takes into account the difference between value received in the short term and value received in the long term. Additionally, it gives you a result that can be compared to traditional investment features, such as the interest rate on a CD or money market account. The ROI is much more rudimentary, does not allow for the difference between near term and long term, and cannot be compared to any of those other measurements.

Solaflect helps Norwich to be first 100% solar town in New England

The municipality of Norwich, Vermont is now powered 100% with solar energy provided by Solaflect Energy. Norwich is the first town in New England, and one of only a small number in the United States, to have its town facilities fully powered by solar. Read more about the town’s partnership with Solaflect in this CNBC article.

Solaflect would like to thank Town Manager Neil Fulton, the town Selectboard, and the Norwich Energy Committee for choosing to go solar and for choosing Solaflect to be their partner.

[Originally posted April 30, 2015. Revised September 23, 2015.]

There’s No Time Like The Present…

…to go Solaflect, that is. Why?

  1. Your utility will keep sending you an electric bill, and will expect you to pay it. The sooner you go solar, the sooner you reduce or zero out that bill.
  2. If going solar means borrowing from a credit union or bank to do so, interest rates are uncommonly low. Will they still be this low next year?
  3. The Federal 30% tax credit for residential solar is set to expire at the end of 2016. To qualify, your Tracker needs to be installed and operational by that time. It’s a very good bet that next year is going to be a madhouse in the solar industry as people rush to beat the deadline. Many of those who try to sign up are going to be too late–there are only so many Trackers our experienced installation team can install in a finite amount of time. If you sign up now, you can sleep easy knowing you didn’t miss out on $5,760 (or thereabouts) worth of Federal tax credit per Tracker. (As a reminder, tax credits are different from deductions. Tax credits have full face value. They are like checks from the government that pay your taxes for you.)
  4. Vermont law requires each utility to accept new net metering connections, until the total capacity of all those connections adds up to equivalent of 15% of the utility’s peak demand. New Hampshire has a similar law with a different threshold. Several utilities have now reached their thresholds and have stopped allowing new solar connections. Green Mountain Power has reached approximately the 9% mark, and is moving toward 15% rapidly. At the current rate, they will reach that 15% threshold roughly at the end of this year (2015). We do not know if new connections will be allowed after that in GMP territory, without changes to the law.
  5. Vermont solar customers, including those with Green Mountain Power, receive bonus net metering credit called the solar adder. Those who went solar in 2014 locked in an adder of 6 cents/kWh for 10 years. Those who are going solar this year (2015) are locking in either 5.3 cents/kWh or 4.3 cents/kWh, depending on the size of the array. Those who waited from 2014 to 2015 lost out on between about $400 to $900 worth of solar adder, per Tracker, depending on location and circumstances. We don’t know of plans to reduce the solar adder further for those who go solar in 2016, but it is a definite possibility.
  6. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere prior to the industrial revolution was 280 ppm. The widely accepted absolute maximum level compatible with avoiding catastrophic global warming is 350 ppm, and almost certainly should be lower. Currently, the level is at 400 ppm. And growing. At some point, global warming will trigger uncontrolled feedbacks that make the situation far worse, such as the melting of permafrost that releases huge volumes of trapped methane. This trend cannot be reversed without all hands on deck, sooner rather than later.

Read more

FAQ: How do I compare a proposal from Solaflect with one from another solar installer?

The tradition in the solar industry is to compare system costs according to their “cost per watt” of capacity. “Capacity” is the ability of the solar panels to produce a certain amount of electricity when exposed to light. More specifically, it is a measure of how much electricity the panels will create when they are at a specific temperature and are exposed to light of a specific intensity. For example, a solar array rated at 4 kilowatts (kW) will produce 4 kW of direct current electricity under standardized conditions. The amount of electricity created by the panels will vary if the temperature or intensity of light change. Read more

FAQ: What is net metering? How does it work?

Net metering is a system of accounting on your electric bill to give you credit for the solar energy your system generates. The specifics can vary from state to state and from utility to utility.

Basic net metering works like this. First, think of a home that does not have a solar array. It gets all of its electricity from the utility. Whenever an electric device is on in the house, electricity is pulled in from the utility grid. The utility meter measures how much electricity is passed into the house. For each kWh passed into the house over the course of the month, the utility will charge a certain cost. Read more

FAQ: Will a Solaflect PV Tracker zero out my electric bill?

A Solaflect PV Tracker will produce a certain amount of electricity, based on its capacity (4 kW) [update: beginning Summer 2016, the Tracker has an increased capacity of 4.24 kW], how open the view of the sky is at its location, the time of year, and the weather during the billing period. We offer free site visits to assess the conditions at your property, including measurement of “solar access,” the term for how much of the sky the Tracker can see without trees, buildings, ridge lines, etc., in the way. A Tracker will be more productive in late spring and summer months when the days are longer, and less productive in late fall and winter months when days are shorter. (See “How does solar production vary over the year?“) As for weather, the sunniness or cloudiness of any particular month or year varies, and may change by 5% or 10% from year to year. Whenever we estimate production, we base that on the average conditions over the long term. Read more

Live from the Cornish Fair!

We are at the Cornish (NH) Fair all this weekend, August 21-23. Come on over to learn about the Solaflect PV Tracker and while you are at it have fun with the rides and farm animals. Our table and demo Tracker are by the tractor display and bunny tent.

Windham County (VT) Solar Loans

Solaflect Energy customers in Windham County can now take advantage of a special loan program, developed in response to the shutdown of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The program provides interest rate reductions for Windham County residents who finance a solar purchase through VSECU’s (already excellent) VGreen loans.

For more information, visit https://www.vsecu.com/energy-savings/loans/specialized-loans/windham-county-solar-loan-program.

FAQ: Will I get backup power from my Tracker if the utility grid is down?

Solaflect installs standard grid-connected systems. You will not get power from it when the utility grid is down. This is a National Electric Code safety feature built into the inverters. The inverter senses if the grid is operating normally. The moment the grid goes down, the inverter stops solar power from flowing through it. This is to prevent power backflowing into the grid where it might harm line crews that are fixing the grid.

For those who would like a degree of solar backup power when the grid is down, we offer an upgrade option to the SolarEdge StorEdge inverter. This inverter is fully compatible with the Tesla Powerwall battery system. We do not currently offer the Powerwall batteries directly, however with the StorEdge upgrade your Tracker system will be ready to “plug and play” with the Powerwall when it becomes more readily available.


See more FAQs here.

“First Half Of 2015 Was Hottest Ever Recorded” -Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Earth dialed the heat up in June, smashing warm temperature records for both the month and the first half of the year.

Off-the-charts heat is “getting to be a monthly thing,” said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June was the fourth month of 2015 that set a record, she said.

“There is almost no way that 2015 isn’t going to be the warmest on record,” she added.

Full story…

Got solar? Are you sure?

If you buy a PV Tracker from Solaflect, you are honest and truly going solar. This is true both for those who have Trackers installed on their own property, and for those who have Trackers that are hosted at one of our Community Solar Parks.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case for Vermont residents participating in other so-called community solar projects. A recent article by Vermont Law School professor Kevin Jones in the Rutland Herald explains that some of these projects only look like solar on the surface, when in fact participants end up buying primarily fossil fuel power from the regional grid.

If you want to go solar, be sure to ask the company you deal with whether your purchase or lease is truly giving you solar. You are going solar ONLY if you have legal claim to the “renewable attributes,” aka RECs, that are associated with the solar equipment.

Solaflect is proud to be a solar company from top to bottom. We offer real solar and nothing else.

FAQ: What is Group Net Metering?

Group net metering means that more than one account with the utility can share the benefit of a single solar array. The specifics of how group net metering work depend on the laws and regulations of the state.

In Vermont, utilities are required to allow customers to use group net metering. All of the customers and the solar array have to be connected to the same utility. How the credit from the array is shared depends on specifics of the group arrangement. Read more

FAQ: What about future advances in solar technology?

Standard solar modules, which are based on crystal silicon, are 15-20% efficient. That means that 15-20% of the energy in the sunlight that lands on them is converted into electrical energy. The most efficient crystal silicon PV cell in the laboratory has achieved 25% efficiency. That record has hardly changed in the past 20 years. While manufacturing techniques have improved so that commercially available modules approach the laboratory maximum, and simultaneously lower costs, there is not all that much room for improvement in this most-common PV chemistry.

There are alternative PV technologies that achieve much better efficiencies, as seen in the National Renewable Energy Lab chart below. The panels that are in widespread use today rely on “Crystalline Si Cells,” specifically “Single crystal (non-concentrator)” and “Multicrystalline,” also without concentration. Read more