We are living in strange times. Pandemic and recession are jumbled in with climate change in a way that is more than disconcerting. Green Energy Times wanted to find out how this was affecting renewable energy, so a number of solar installers in the Upper Valley were contacted to find out what their experiences were. Here are some of the things they said:
Andrew Wible, Catamount Solar’s Director of Operations, board member, and employee owner, told us, “Vermonters are resilient by nature. Catamount Solar believes that the clean-energy sector helps families, communities and individuals save money, while providing safety, security, and peace of mind. The solar industry is helping our community rebuild from the coronavirus crisis while simultaneously fighting climate change. During these uncertain times, we have seen a growing interest in solar systems that include batteries, as Vermonters are working toward security and preparation. As a workers’ cooperative, Catamount Solar was equipped to weather the storm as a team by finding ways to work toward the future and help our community. We continue to see growing interest and feel strongly that the solar industry will prove to be an essential force in rebuilding our local economy.”
Catamount Solar’s website is catamountsolar.com.
Green Energy Options
Pablo Fleishman, owner of Green Energy Options said, “I think we are going to have a good year, considering everything. People are still interested in solar. We had contracts we thought were going to disappear, but they seem to be coming back. When our states shut down, no one knew how to think, but now they are going back to work. We are going to take a hit this year, because we have already lost three months, but we have hopes for the year anyway. We are going to have to hit the ground running to accomplish what we have in years past.”
The Green Energy Options website is greenenergyoptions.com.
Amos Post, founder and CEO of Integrity Energy, told us that his business is moving along at a very quick pace. “Things are very busy here,” he said. “We have some very neat projects in the pipeline, and we are actually experiencing a summer solar slam.”
Integrity Energy’s website is ienergyvt.com.
Darren O’Meara, partner of O’Meara Solar, said he and his business were doing well. He said, “We are having a good start to the year, at least average. Early in the year, there was a fair amount of uncertainty. Grid-tied installations are a bit slower, but off-grid systems have had an uptick.” He said he thought some people who live in cities want to be prepared to go to safe havens in the country, free of worries about electric power. He told us, “As for LiFePO₄ backup batteries, I have installed two RELiON systems, and one Simpliphi for off-grid, and two Sonnen grid-tie systems. I do have two more Simpliphi installs going on in the next month.”
The O’Meara Solar website is omearasolar.com.
Kim Quirk, the manager of ReVision Energy’s office in Enfield, New Hampshire, gave us a representative and very clear, response. “Things are moving along with a lot of projects that people could do,” she said. “Sales were down a little when the coronavirus hit, but they are picking up again.” She said the chaotic things that are happening, the pandemic and recession, make people open up to looking at ways they can take control of their lives. There has been an increase in the number of battery-tied systems ReVision has been installing. A good solar system with backup can do a lot for confidence in hard times. Mostly, her branch is installing Tesla or Generac lithium-ion systems designed to provide backup and load-leveling services.
ReVision Energy’s website is revisionenergy.com.
The trend in the local solar industry seems to be following worldwide advancement in solar capacity being installed. Installers in areas of high rates of coronavirus infection are often heartened by the fact that solar installers do not generally need to be closer to each other than social distancing would require, and so they can continue to work without great slowdowns.
The global recession that is upon us has similarly not had a great effect on the solar industry in many places. While recession usually makes people afraid to spend money, the solar industry is benefiting wherever it can show reduced costs for the customer. And that, fortunately, is nearly everywhere.
Norwich Solar Technologies (NST)
Jim Merriam, CEO of NST, put up a post about recent events, saying, “While we all wait for more normal times to formally celebrate good work, I want to thank the Town of Hartford, VT and the Community Impact Investor Group we sponsor for helping low- and moderate-income (LMI) Vermonters.”
He continued, “Recently the Town of Hartford recognized they could use a municipal property to help local LMI residents save money and generate local renewable energy. Many LMI residents face barriers to solar such as renting or coming up with the upfront capital required. By working with local investors who want to make a positive impact, the parties involved were able to create a solar project that overcomes these barriers and creates a win for everyone involved.
The resulting 87kW rooftop installation on the top of Hartford’s Public Safety Building is a collaboration with one of our impact investors, Hartford, Twin Pines Housing Trust, and Stewart Property Management. Savings from the solar installation supports the affordability of these LMI housing units located in Hartford, VT. This project once again shows the leadership local government and LMI-housing organizations are actively taking to connect a forward-looking economy to benefitting all Vermonters.”
The work for LMI solar power is not the only thing NST has been working on of late. A 500-MW (AC) array on the site of an old Goodyear facility in Windsor, Vermont was commissioned in December. This particular array is significant because of the number of problems that were addressed as it was created.
It is on a brownfield, which limits what can be done with the site and also means that the site needed a certain amount of cleanup to be put to use. In this case, cleanup included removing asbestos from the former factory’s concrete slab.
That was not the only problem, however. The site is in a floodplain which had its own implications for NST, as the design went ahead. One implication of this was the electrical connections for the solar array all had to be about six feet above ground.
The off-taker for the electricity produced by the array is Harpoon Brewery, and the Harpoon Riverbend Taps & Beergarden which will be 100% powered by the solar system. Troy McBride, Chief Technology Officer of NST, called this array a “win-win-win,” but we suspect that a couple more “wins” could have been added to that, given the project’s numerous benefits. McBride did mention one other thing worth passing on to people. He said, another important aspect of the project that needs to be stated was that it was “about the great partnerships.” He added, “That project is a great success story.”
The NST website is norwichsolar.com.