Green Earth Energy (GEE) is a very unusual business. Based in Brandon, Vermont, it is a subsidiary of McKernon Group. We should make sure that the reader does not get a wrong impression from that statement. The word “subsidiary” might make some people think in terms of big business. With fifty employees, McKernon Group hardly qualifies for that term as a representation of its size. It hardly compares with Amazon or Tesla as a big business.
In another way, however, McKernon Group really is big – it has a lot of ability and experience. McKernon Group proudly calls itself “an environmentally responsible Vermont custom home builder devoted to the finest quality, sustainable building practices that encompasses a wide variety of construction styles.”
The main part of McKernon Group is devoted to architecture and design, with a focus on aesthetics. It builds houses and business structures. One subsidiary, Vermont Woodland Cabinetry & Millwork Inc., does fine cabinetry, and the connection it has to architecture and design should be obvious. Another subsidiary, Urethane Spray Foam Insulation, takes up questions of building efficiency, which is vital in new construction. GEE is the McKernon Group’s solar installer, and it deals with other energy products, such as heat pumps.
To a person who has been paying attention to the issues of renewable energy, efficiency, and climate change, the benefits of combining these business components in a suite of subsidiaries seems rather obvious. Putting them together with design and construction is something we might expect to find as a standard business model in many places. Nevertheless, we don’t see it, and that is puzzling. Perhaps McKernon Group has invented a business paradigm – one that should be in widespread use.
Of course, our focus here is McKernon Group’s solar installer. GEE specialize in heat pump installations, residential ground or roof mount solar, and larger solar commercial fields. McKernon Group was founded in 1987, so it had built a fair amount of experience by 2006, the year GEE was founded. Since that time, GEE has installed about 11 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PVs). The company installed close to 800 kilowatts of PVs in 2021 alone, and that was a time when the world was suffering from Covid-19, and solar installers were suffering from global supply issues.
Heat pumps are important to GEE, and a recent installation serves as an example. GEE finished installing heat pumps into the guest rooms at Snowed Inn in Killington, Vermont. That installation, which is one of GEE’s larger heat pump retrofits, used Samsung VRF heat pumps for the sixteen rooms.
GEE generally uses Hanwha Q Cell solar panels (manufactured in the U.S.) and SolarEdge inverters for its solar systems. The company also has a lot of experience with batteries and can do both grid-tied and off-grid installations. It uses a variety of types, including Fortress Power’s lithium iron phosphate models and the SolarEdge lithium-ion batteries.
The technical details of the types of things GEE can install really do not do justice to what might be the company’s greatest strength, however. With the McKernon Group’s strength in design, GEE has an ability to provide solar systems that address the aesthetics of the site of installation. This is an important issue, because a lot of people are particular about the appearance of solar panels sitting on a roof or out in a field. And after all, if people are to spend some money having solar systems built, we might hope that at the very least, they would be pleased with the appearance of the result.
It is not surprising that GEE emphasizes that it deals with each installation on an individual basis when it offers descriptions of its strengths. Many customers may appreciate the fact that in the case of this company, custom design might be more likely to consider the questions of the lay of the land, what kinds of trees are to the north of the array, and how its layout fits with the look of the roof.
GEE is not stuck in aesthetics, however, and it does a lot of solar installations for commercial and industrial customers, in addition to the residential systems where a pleasing design is of great importance.
Jim Crawford, who is responsible for solar sales and project development at Green Earth Energy said, “I think we are on the happy medium of energy efficiency and affordability. We inform the customer and let them make their own decisions.” He added, “We focus on aesthetics for both solar and heat pumps.” For people who take interest in the way their homes look, that might be very important.