By Daniel Hoviss
One of Southern Vermont’s newest community solar installations is at the Vermont Agricultural Business Education Center (VABEC), just south of Brattleboro. It is the latest of the Soveren Community Solar Farms. Though these are all sold out, it is still possible to reserve a spot in the next community solar farm in DummerstonVT.
Soveren Solar, located in BellowsFalls (soverensolar.com), has installed six community solar farms in southern Vermont. They are working on lining up new locations.
There are important advantages to community solar with adjustable ground mounts. Soveren Solar’s arrays, for example, are installed on locally built mounts. The adjustable racks allow them to be tilted seasonally to maximize power generation and shed snow in the winter. This feature means that owners of panels in our solar farms will get 15-20% power than from an average non-adjustable system. This is something to consider for comparing different options.
Another advantages are system warranty and maintenance. Community projects often have production warranties of 20 or 25 years, guaranteeing to produce 80% of their nameplate rating for the warrantee period. As electricity prices go up, in 25 years, the electricity that the panels generate should be worth significantly more than it is today. Soveren Community Solar projects include all scheduled maintenance and repairs at no cost for 30 years, but others will have different warrantees. It is wise to check.
While it is nearly always less expensive to commit to buying a solar system than to continue buying power, a residential customer for solar power has important choices to consider. Continuing to buy power from a utility is a never-ending proposition. By contrast, if a solar system is entirely financed, it should cost no more than buying electricity on a month-to-month basis, but the cost is an investment. In a period of five to fifteen years, the system is paid off and the solar customer gets electricity from the sun for free. Another option is to pay for the solar system upfront. It can be a great investment, not only economically, but in clean, locally-produced energy, supporting small farms and local jobs.
Any tax-paying business in Green Mountain Power territory can purchase a solar PV system, depreciate the panels on an accelerated five-year schedule, and receive a Vermont investment tax credit of 7.2% in addition to the federal tax credit of 30%. Depending on the tax bracket; that can bring a rate of return on the investment of 20%-30%.
To get a free proposal visit http://www.putney.net/solarize/solarize-signup/, or call 802.254.1410.
Daniel Hoviss lives and works in Putney, Vermont. He is owner of e-Solutions, where he works on commission. He is active with the Putney Energy Committee, and the local Community Garden. He is very active in helping to bring about the changes necessary to move us into a sustainable future. He is also working towards building Solarize programs in Southern VT.