Bill Laberge, CEO of Grassroots Solar, got his practical introduction to solar power in 2013, when he had a 9.5-kilowatt (kW) system installed at his home. He bought an electric vehicle (EV) and was soon providing it with electricity from his own solar panels.
In those days, Laberge made his living as a fine woodworker. His new solar system and EV became central issues in his life. Once he had seen the benefits of a pollution-free lifestyle, he wanted to share that with everyone else. He became a solar installer.
That was only a beginning, however. He had a vision. It was built around some very appealing ideas. They ranged from saving money on energy at home to saving the planet for his grandchildren. The ideas included safety, sustainability, and resilience. But that vision included something that a lot of solar installers did not know much about at that time, which was batteries. He knew we need batteries to be free of fossil fuels.
His employer did not quite share that vision, so he started his own company in Dorset, Vermont, specializing on battery backup systems and off-grid systems. That company is Grassroots Solar.
Backup battery systems are very powerful tools for dealing with climate change. They benefit not only their owner and the other residents of the building where they are installed, but everyone else also. They can help regulate the power grid, keeping costs down for everyone. They can provide electricity in times of high demand. They can absorb the extra energy at times when demand is lower than supply.
Laberge told us, “Grassroots Solar focuses on helping people to electrify their lives.” Many people see that kind of change as something that is coming, as though it were in some sort of mythical future world. Laberge, however, seems to take a fair amount of pride in being able to show them that time has already come. “The best time to install solar was yesterday,” he said, “but today is pretty good, too.”
Grassroots Solar was built up on expertise. Laberge is quite proud of the fact that his expertise began as a customer, because it helps him see everything from a customer’s point of view. But he is also NABCEP-certified as a solar installer. He is not the only person with that level of certification at Grassroots, as Danielle Laberge, the sales manager, is a NABCEP-Certified PV Technical Sales Professional™.
Bill Laberge has been able to build up a list of suppliers that is very impressive. This is especially important today, because the whole world is in the throes of supply issues so having several vendors for solar panels, batteries, and inverters makes it possible to move ahead on projects that might otherwise be delayed. Please bear in mind, however, that the multiple choices are all carefully chosen, first-rate products.
Grassroots is the exclusive dealer for SunPower in Vermont and the SunPower Equinox® system, which are the most efficient panels on the market, according to Grassroots’ web site. Beyond that, there are several other companies whose products may be important for a project, including Sol-Ark, Fortress Power, SimpliPhi, SolarEdge, and sonnen.
The nature of solar systems for households and small businesses is changing as technology changes, and the products Grassroots Solar provides are chosen for this. In some cases, solar panels, inverters, batteries, and controllers communicate with each other to provide the best performance possible. They also can communicate with the owner of the system by using the internet.
There is an aspect to Bill Laberge and Grassroots Solar that we really should not let go unmentioned. It is a clear desire to help others. After Hurricane Maria, Laberge went to Puerto Rico to help build up solar-powered microgrids. In that effort, he worked with products and people of the German company, sonnenBatterie. Laberge was rewarded in that experience by more than good feelings. He also got recognition from sonnen, when the company gave him its 2018 Brilliance Award.
Laberge is clear about wanting to educate those people who do not yet understand about solar power. His message to them is about benefits: “You get a big bonus.” And that bonus is not merely financial.
Grassroots Solar’s website is grassrootssolar.com.