Celebrating ten years of helping businesses and municipalities build a clean solar powered future
For Aegis Renewable Energy (http://www.aegis-re.com/) founder and CEO Nils Behn, a native of Vermont’s Mad River Valley, it all began in a tenth grade anthropology class about indigenous people in the Amazon. Those people, he realized, had lived all those thousands of years in their environment, and the enivronment had thrived with them in it. The contrast with our civilization’s impact on the environment was stark.
Then and there, Nils said, he made a pact with himself, “Whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to have a net positive for my existence, my time here on the planet. That’s very much part of the ethos of our company.”
After studying anthropology in college, Nils worked for a nonprofit, then moved to Idaho with his girlfriend, now wife and partner Sonia. The couple built a solar, off-grid strawbale house an hour and a half from the nearest town (population 100). They moved back to Vermont after having their son. Nils worked as a Senior Project Manager for Northern Power systems for nine years where he gained broad experience in commercial and military solar manufacturing and installations. He then ran the wind division of Alteris Renewables. After Alteris merged with RGS Energy, Nils spun the division off into Aegis Wind LLC, now Aegis Renewable Energy, Inc., based in Waitsfield, Vermont. Sonia Behn is the financial controller for the company, and as a woman leader in the construction and renewable energy sectors, works to support women in those industries. She served on the board of the Amicus Solar Cooperative (www.amicussolar.com) which is a member-owned co-op of 68 solar installation companies throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Amicus Solar Cooperative provides Aegis and its other members access to equipment and components at prices typically reserved for only the very largest solar companies in the country. This advantage allows Aegis to provide project pricing that is extremely competitive.. Aegis is also a member of the Amicus O&M (Operations and Maintenance) Cooperative (www.amicusom.com) which collectively provides ongoing maintenance services for the growing number of solar PV systems throughout the U.S. Aegis‘ skilled service technicians allow the company to extend its valued relationship with its customers into the full life cycle of the solar project and ensures consistent coverage and standardized services for their customers.
Aegis currently works only on commercial and utility scale solar and energy storage projects, including rooftop, carport, and ground-mounted projects. They provide what the company calls “a suite of design-build services that encompass every step in renewable energy project development from feasibility and site analysis, complete engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services to final commissioning and maintenance.” They have installed 40MW since 2011, with a strong pipeline of projects for 2022 throughout the Northeast.
On bigger projects, supply chain is becoming a real issue. “Lead times have gotten crazy,” Nils Behn says. One utility recently announced very long lead times on some critical gear for connections which are not projected to be delivered for a jaw-dropping 92 weeks. The phone is still ringing about new projects, though.
Aegis projects you might see while out and about include Lawson’s Finest Brewery, Richmond Creamery, Vermont Creamery-Ayer’s Brook Goat Dairy Farm, Manchester, New Hamphire’s Landfill, and Vermont community or town installations in Waitsfield, Warren, Colchester, Mad River, Barre, Lyndonville, Londonderry, Saint Albans, and Sudbury. Colchester installed two 150kW projects through Aegis, both on town land, which now produce an equivalent of 70% of the electricity used to provide municipal services. The projects save the town over $1 million after repayment of capital and operating costs. A third project is in the works.
In many cases the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for a project are retired, rather than being sold to out–of–state polluters, for a much higher environmental benefit.
The company website makes it clear what is at stake. “Every solar panel that we install means that 50 lightbulbs can be turned on without dependence on the fossil fuels that are responsible for the rapid destabilization of our planet’s climate. Every solar panel we install means that we as parents are actively working toward a future that we can be proud to hand over to our children.“ Or as Nils Behn puts it, “Our focus on helping our customers achieve their renewable energy goals comes from our desire to do good in the world.”
Jessie Haas is the author of over 40 books, including The Hungry Place. She and husband Michael Daley have lived in a tiny, off-grid home in Westminster for 38 years.