Sun Common came to Franklin County this week, making ours the fourth Vermont county to fall under its umbrella of good news. In their own words:
Launched as a pilot program by VPIRG, Sun Common became an independent business early in 2012 under the entrepreneurial direction of co-presidents Duane Peterson and James Moore. It operates as a “benefit corporation,” which simply means, “for the public good,” and allows the company to preserve a social or environmental mission without violating the responsibility that a conventional corporation has to maximize profit for shareholders.
On Monday morning, joined by community organizers Jessica Edgerly Walsh (formerly of Toxics Action Center), Dan Conant (formerly of VPIRG), and Clary Franko (a North Carolina transplant), Duane Peterson introduced a gathering of about thirty Franklin County residents to how Sun Common is already making solar affordable, and even a bargain, for average Vermonters in Chittenden, Washington and Addison Counties.
Supporting speakers included St. Albans City Mayor Liz Gamache, who, as an employee of the Vermont Electric Coop, has firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing the state’s electric utilities.
Also lending their support were former Democratic Senator Sara Kittell and former Democratic House Rep. Jeff Young.
You’ve got to be pretty darned gutsy to talk solar to Franklin County residents in the middle of February, but, as far as I was concerned, Mr. Peterson did a great sales job.
I was more than convinced, and disappointed to learn that the Prent family domicile wouldn’t qualify for the program because slate roofs are beyond impossible.
Even without a slate roof, not all homes will be suitable for roof-top solar installation. In order to qualify, a south-facing roof must be available. Mr. Peterson estimates that roughly 60% of all houses in Vermont could support roof arrays.
That’s okay; there’s good news even for us non-qualifiers; because a collateral benefit of my neighbors going solar will be a lessening of the load on the overall grid…on which my household must depend. Aging infrastructure and increased demand challenge both the cost and reliability of that grid for all of us.
…And other options do exist, including ground-mounted arrays; and small shared utilities can be created by linking a number of homes to a single suitable installation.
The objective is to reduce the cost of solar so that all Vermonters can participate. There are a variety of purchase and loan options, but the idea is that the cost of equipment and installation is distributed over twenty years; and, at minimum, fully offset by savings in electrical bills.
Mr. Peterson took the St. Albans opportunity to announce that New England Federal Credit Union has just offered unsecured loans at 6% to homeowners who wish to take advantage of Sun Common’s program but have no other option for financing.
Sun Common visits each home, at the owner’s request and free-of-charge, in order to assess the way solar panels can best be utilized to serve that user’s consumption patterns in order to achieve a “net O” goal that holds the cost to a set figure for twenty years, and is no greater than the homeowner’s current electricity costs. In some cases it may be even less expensive.
If I have gotten any of this wrong, I encourage the Sun Common folks to join in here and set me straight. I was extremely impressed by the presentation and am eager to see the program adopted widely in Franklin County.