We’ve had plenty of distressing environmental news lately, so it is exciting to see an environmental success. As a result of acid rain, Lake Colden, high in the Adirondack mountains of NY, was declared fishless 32 years ago. It was recently announced that a reproducing population of brook trout was discovered there. This is the first time that a self-sustaining fish population returned to a sterile high Adirondack lake without stocking.
This success resulted from a combination of good policy and technological change. Amendments to the US Clean Air Act and NY regulations helped reduce acid rain, but the shutting of coal plants has also contributed to the improvement in water quality.
Although coal was initially displaced by natural gas, Forbes now states that renewables are competitive with or cheaper than new fossil fuel plants in much of the U.S.
Thank you for supporting clean air, clean water, and the continued development of the solar industry!
Solaflect is excited to be back for year 2 of the Woodstock Solar Showcase in conjunction with the Taste of Woodstock this Saturday from 10am to 6pm on the Woodstock Village Green. We’ll be handing out freshly baked King Arthur Flour cookies from our solar-powered oven and we’d love to see you and talk solar over a cookie!
Thrilled to be serving fresh, irresistible, sun-baked cookies from our friends at King Arthur Flour to all the runners participating in the Upper Valley Trail Alliance’s Stoaked trail run at Oak Hill in Hanover this morning!
If you’re intrigued by innovative ways to replace fossil fuel with renewable energy, and you want to join of an energized team of hard-working, smart and fun people committed to rapidly expand the adoption of solar, we may just have a role for you.
As we continue growing the number
of residential trackers that we have installed, we also continue to
work on making the system more reliable for our customers. To continue to
improve our ability to serve our customers well, we are looking to hire a
service technician to maintain and repair solar Trackers.
Role and Responsibilities
The primary role of the Service Technician
will be to provide professional customer service
to Solaflect customers, make service visits to residential solar
tracker installations to maintain and repair equipment, and keep detailed
records of service work for the purposes of increasing overall reliability
of the product. The secondary role of the technician will be to assist the
installation and production teams and maintain optimal working space
in the service and workshop spaces.
Service activities include:
Diagnosing a variety of mechanical, structural, communication, and electrical issues
Replacing mechanical and structural components
Repairing electrical wiring/connections
Repairing communication links/connections (communication types include: Cat5, Coax, and Fiber)
Qualifications and Education Requirements
Significant on-the-job training will be provided to the candidate who has an aptitude for hands-on work with mechanical and electrical systems and a desire to succeed in a fast-growing small-business setting.
What we’ll want you to have:
Ability to interact effectively with customers
Experience with solar power, electrical hardware design, mechanical design, software, and manufacturing engineering preferable
Ability to perform hands-on tasks
Ability to learn new software and online tools to aid project development and design
Knowledge of electrical conventions and sizing (wire sizing, calculating current, voltage, and other PV-relevant variables) preferred
Excellent verbal and written communication, and listening skills
Ability and confidence to work independently
Strong computer skills
Self-motivated, hard working, with a high level of organization and planning skills
Plenty of positive energy and a history of contributing to healthy team environments
Experience working with power tools, fiber optic communications,
small electric motors, and photovoltaic systems are
preferred. Computer programming, Microsoft Office, and software
skills also preferred.
Compensation will be competitive and commensurate with experience.
Please send you resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Record breaking production on Saturday from a two-Tracker installation on Bragg Hill in Norwich, VT. These blue bird cold days in winter can really top the charts, and compensate for miserable cloudy days in Sep/Oct/Nov of 2018 that produced 25% less solar than the same time frame in 2017. In contrast, Feb 2019 alone saw 27% more solar production than Feb 2018.
Many of us live in Northern New England because we love the winter recreation that the region offers, and many others discover that the winters are long unless one embraces the recreational opportunities provided in the region. However, these recreational pursuits are in peril. A new article from Climate Central (“ON THIN ICE: How Climate Change is Shaping Winter Recreation” — https://www.climatecentral.org/…/report-on-thin-ice-climate…) shows that we are in the crosshairs.
Winters are heating up, with serious consequences for America’s cold-weather sports economy. To many Americans, a mild winter may seem like a pleasant prospect. This article refers to Burlington, VT as one of the most rapidly warming winters, with the winter average temperature increasing 7 degrees from 1970 to 2018.
Of course at Solaflect, we believe that solarizing our lives is one of the fastest and most impactful and meaningful ways to slow the rate of climate change for the benefit of our children and grand-children. Please spread the word and feel free to contact us.
P.S. For Climate Nerds
According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the earth has warmed approximately 1 degree Celsius since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. How is this consistent with Burlington winters warming 7 degrees? Of course, there is a lot of local variability in climate change depending on a huge variety of factors. However, there are large scale variations that play a role in the rapidly warming New England winters. Less than 30% of the earth’s surface is located between the 45 degree Latitude lines and the two poles. The Vermont border with Canada is 45 degrees latitude. As you have certainly seen in news reports, the poles are warming the fastest of any part of the earth, but they represent a small fraction of the total earth area. As we are located halfway between the equator and the North Pole, our climate is changing significantly faster than the global average. In addition, winters are warming much faster than summers. The warming of New England summers is approximately in line with the global average temperature increases, so the annual average temperature increase in New England is much lower than the seven degree increase seen in Burlington winters, which are only 1/4 of the annual average.
For the Winter Recreation Climate Nerds
Having grown up in Vermont, the graph I’ve attached pretty much encapsulates my life. In my earliest days, about 1 in 10 winter days got above freezing at the top of Mt. Mansfield, but now that is up to 1 in 6 winter days (trend line on the blue graph). The number of winter days where it has stayed above freezing for the entire day at the top of Mt. Mansfield (red graph) is nearly SEVEN TIMES greater in the last decade of my life compared to the first decade. This means rain events, freeze-thaw cycles, and melting rivers and lakes.
These changes are minor inconveniences for those of us that love winter recreation, and they will impact our economy which is heavily dependent upon winter recreation. However, these changes are just canaries in the coal mine. We are “playing with fire”, as there are large scale climate patterns that could get severely disrupted by continued climate change, but there is a lot of uncertainty about how fast or how dramatically these patterns could change.
Solar energy is great, but not so much when it’s covered in lovely white stuff for days on end while the sun is shining. And that’s just one of the reasons a solar Tracker makes all the difference. Shedding snow quickly, getting right back to work, and generating 40% more solar energy than rooftop solar.
2019 is the last year to get the full 30% federal tax credit for solar, so now’s a great time to beat the end of year rush and figure out if solar in your backyard or field works for you. And solar is now possible for little to no money down.
“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…” said Daniel Burnham back in 1907. Well, Boston sure wouldn’t have disappointed the famed architect and planner of cities with its ambitious new plan to be 100 percent carbon free by 2050. On the heels of Massachusetts’ commitment to have 80% of electricity supplied to the state come from zero-carbon fuels by 2050, Boston is upping the ante.
The takeaways from the recently released report by Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission make for an interesting read – see full summary below. Several key learnings, however, can help guide and inspire those of us living far from the bustle of the city. With an eye to our own respective carbon footprints, nuggets to perhaps inspire changes at home:
Getting to carbon zero requires maximum energy efficiency and 100 percent clean electricity
Buildings account for more than two-thirds of the city’s emissions
Homes must switch from oil and gas to electricity from carbon-free or renewable resources
29% of Boston’s emissions come from the transportation sector, and 75% of those emissions from private passenger vehicles.
The trend toward electric vehicles means we’re likely to see a 40% decline in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
The technology to make all of these changes already exists, and should become cheaper.
Making these changes should also create jobs, lower utility bills, and increase home values, while making the city more climate resilient.
Good for Boston for laying down the gauntlet.
At Solaflect, we often talk about an average family’s overall energy usage breaking out as roughly 40% transportation, 40% heat, and only 20% general household power usages. Traditionally, solar has really only targeted that 20% slice, but with the increasing availability and quality of electric vehicles and mini split heat pumps, those two 40% slices of the pie are where the sea changes in electrification are coming. And where does all that clean electricity come from? Well, at least for those who have the space, and place a value on simply paying less for electricity, let alone solar – there’s the Solaflect Tracker.
Five years ago, Beth and Sandy decided to install a Solaflect Tracker on their property in Norwich. They were pioneers, the first people to take the plunge with Solaflect. While solar energy options had been around for decades, the Tracker did something revolutionary: it tilted and moved with the sun throughout the day, resulting in the capture of 40% more energy than the traditional fixed PV panels. “We had been considering solar for a long time,” Beth says, and they already had a solar hot water system on the property. “We’d been hemming and hawing and Bill stopped in. We signed up a week later. Bill has a lot of integrity and that meant a lot to us. There was a personal component to all of this.”
Within a couple of months of the installation, “our electric bill was virtually zero. We started putting electricity back into the grid quickly.” Beyond the financial benefits, the couple watched how much energy their Tracker was generating, how much CO2 they were keeping out of the atmosphere, or how many trees they were saving in real time. Seeing the interactions between the sun, the weather, and the home’s energy generation and usage on a moment-by-moment basis was a fun side-effect. The Tracker, Beth admits, “is high on the cool factor.”
When it came time to install the Tracker in a sun-drenched spot behind a cluster of coniferous trees, the couple was excited…almost as much as the Solaflect team. “We had everyone from Solaflect here: interns, staff, family, etc.,” recalls Beth. “Everybody was really trying to do their best. They were working out a few little bugs. We tried to facilitate the process as much as we could while staying out of the way,” says Sandy.
Soon, they realized they had a problem every homeowner would love to have: they were producing more power than they were using. They recognized that they were putting a lot of energy generated by the Tracker back into the grid. Opportunity was knocking, and they were ready. They installed a heat pump on the property, which they could run with solar energy. And they added a hybrid-electric car, secure in the knowledge that their Tracker would cover the cost of charging it throughout the year. One of the benefits of being the first adopters of Tracker technology has been the chance to share their experience with friends and neighbors. “We followed-up with people after installation, and some of them have gone solar after hearing from us,” Sandy says.
The question they get the most from others is, “How many years will it take for the Tracker to pay for itself?” Beth laughs as she notes, “You never ask that question when you buy a furnace or any other appliance; it is unique to solar.” For their part, the couple chose to ask a different question. “As warm and fuzzy as solar is, it is also a financial layout,” Beth says. “We wanted to know what the return on our investment would be.” They did their homework, and their math showed an 8-10% return on investment, “better than the market. It is a safe investment that is adding value to your home.” She sums it up like this: if you are spending $100 less on power each month, that frees up $100 more for your mortgage payment. “People in Norwich get that,” Beth adds, “and realtors are catching up, though they don’t yet sell that as much as they could”.
Five years into their solar lives, Beth and Sandy shared one more detail that wasn’t part of the original plan. “Solaflect has become family.” “One of the technicians, Mike, would come out to check the Tracker or tweak a small detail. We’d invite him to stay for a beer… or dinner,” Beth says.
On the heels of the United Nations global warming report issued earlier this week, Solaflect founder Bill Bender submitted a letter to the editors of several local newspapers around Vermont and New Hampshire, which should be in newsprint shortly. Given the urgency of the topic, and on the chance newsprint doesn’t make it across your doorstep, we’ve shared a copy of his letter below:
“The latest international climate change report makes it clear that three-quarters of human-caused global warming has occurred in my lifetime. We are just starting to see the impacts that have been predicted for decades, including more wildfires, extreme flooding, more intense storms, melting glaciers, migrating viruses, and mass human migration caused by depleted livelihoods. In the past decade, the earth surpassed average temperatures seen any time since the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago. In general, land warms more than oceans, and winters warm more than summers. As a result, New England winters are one of the most affected parts of the mainland U.S. Average winter temperatures are approximately 5 degrees warmer in a bit more than a century, and on current trends, the increase will be much more this century. In the first two decades of my life, there were only 5 winter days when the top of Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield stayed above freezing all day. In the last two decades, there have been 29 such days, nearly a six-fold increase. This is only one of millions of data points that indicate how the earth is warming.”
The recent report indicates that we are rapidly approaching the last decade in which we can head off catastrophic impacts for our children. The $5 trillion dollar fossil fuel industry is trying its best to muddy the waters by spreading false information.
Nonetheless there is hope; the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions over the past decade to 1992 levels despite a much larger economy, and there are thousands of solar homes in VT and NH. New England should be a global leader in the switch to a cleaner economy, but we are lagging far behind the speed necessary for this transition.
For the sake of our children, please support a dramatically faster transition to clean and renewable energy sources, both personally in your home and business, and politically at the ballot box.”
Find Solaflect Energy at the Hanover and Lebanon Farmer’s Markets through the summer. Have a cookie — baked with solar energy — and learn how an efficient solar tracker in your backyard can be the affordable way for you to make renewable energy part of your life.
At Solaflect, we’re passionate about making the planet a better place for our kids. No, really: our work to develop cutting edge, affordable renewable energy solutions is driven by a fervent desire to counter the threat of climate change (and all the creepy crawlies that it may be bringing) with actions that make a difference to all of us.
Nobody wants ticks, ash borers, and mosquitoes taking over the neighborhood — but those are just symptoms of something much bigger and more disturbing taking place, and they’re timely if painful reminders that the clock is ticking, and that our work to put a solar tracker in every backyard really can make a difference.
Get in touch with us to find out if backyard solar could be your way to help combat climate change — and maybe, just maybe, do your part to keep those pesky the ticks at bay…
RECs are complicated and contentious… but what exactly are they, anyway?
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.
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 hope you’ll join us at the 2018 HomeLife Expo this weekend at the Leverone Field House in Hanover, NH. You can find us in our usual spot on the left — we’ll have our big display along with information about how easily you can replace fossil fuel with clean energy from the sun by installing tracker mounted solar panels! We’re also excited to have just launched a Tracker purchase financing option for as low as 3.99% with little to no money down.
Saturday10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Sunday10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Leverone Field House, Dartmouth College, South Park Street, Hanover, NH
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.
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.
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.
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!
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