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Burton Snowboards Goes Big With Solar from Catamount Solar

Burton Senior Sustainability Manager, Jenn Swain, amidst the solar array at Burton headquarters. Photo by Jesse Dawson.

Roger Lohr

After a year of energy from a rooftop solar array, Burton Snowboards announced in an annual sustainability report that it produced 318,220 kWh of electricity from April 2018 -April 2019. This energy was sent from Burton’s 964 solar modules back to the electric grid (net metered) from the company’s Burlington, Vermont location. Burton reported that the kWh amount represented about 45% of the building’s annual electricity consumption and about 40% of the costs for the electricity in form of a credit to the electric bills.

Catamount Solar installed the solar project at the Burton facility. Kevin McCollister is a founder and managing partner of the company. When asked about the project using net metering, McCollister commented, “It makes sense to do net metering and stay on the electric grid compared to going off grid unless you are much more rural and far from utility lines.” The utility companies greatly benefit from solar-produced energy particularly in the summer when it reduces the need for the utility to buy higher priced power during peak demand.

Catamount, based in Randolph, Vermont, is a member-owned cooperative company. Eight of the eighteen Catamount Solar employees are owners who receive a share of profit compensation based on the number of hours worked during the year. The theory of the cooperative company structure is “an acknowledgment that the company’s success is based on people who work for and own the company.” According to the International Coop Alliance, there are about 300 such cooperatives in the U.S. Catamount Solar also donates 5% of its profits to a community fund in Randolph that contributes to local community and environmental programs and initiatives.

Catamount has also been involved with 133 installations associated with the Solarize the Upper Valley program producing 811kWh in the region. The Vital Communities organization conducted the Solarize program to make photovoltaic (PV) energy more accessible across the Upper Valley (Connecticut River Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont). The public campaign has been responsible for more than doubling the number of residences that installed solar projects in the Upper Valley.

In October 2019, Burton Snowboards officially joined the ranks of companies with similar values that meet B Corp™ certification standards for sustainability, social responsibility, transparency, and holding themselves accountable. While about 3,000 companies worldwide (and 34 in Vermont) are certified, Burton is the first snowboarding company to reach these standards.

Jenn Swain, Senior Sustainability Manager at Burton stated, “We are constantly striving toward sustainability in our business practices (they have headquarters in Burlington, Innsbruck and Tokyo) and every employee plays a role in the positive impacts we have.” The sustainability goals created for a three-year period are intended to be accomplished by the end of 2020 and impacts will be on products that would be on store shelves in October 2022. Burton’s sustainability goals involve categories such as reducing carbon footprints associated with production and operation, fair labor standards compliance, women’s leadership programs, and collaborating on sustainability with other outdoor industry leaders.

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Roger Lohr of Lebanon, NH, who owns and edits XCSkiResorts.comhas published articles and promotional topics on snow sports, sustainability, and trails in regional and national media. He is also the Recreational Editor for Green Energy Times.

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