Community Solar

VSECU Goes Solar!

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VSECU Goes Solar!

Over the past three plus months, the Soveren team has been working on a 500kW Solar PV ground installation in Guilford, VT. The power from this project is going to offset the utility bills of the Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU) branches across VT. Yesterday, October 25th, was the ceremonial “throwing of the switch” on site. With representative from Soveren and VSECU present, as well as the Brattleboro Reformer and the Commons, we celebrated this landmark event for both institutions. This is Soveren’s biggest installation to date and represents months of innovation and creative investments. We are thrilled to work with VSECU, a local not-for-profit credit union,  and to do our part make their dream of going solar a reality. You can read their full article...

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Community Solar Loved by Residents and Businesses

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Here at Soveren we know we have some great deals to offer, but there is a gap to bridge between us being able to accurately portray the opportunities we offer and a customer coming to understand how community solar is a hot ticket item. So, in lieu of going into depth about it here, I’d like to point you towards an article Forbes posted the other day about why they love community solar. Take a look at what Forbes is saying about community solar and its benefits. Here in Vermont we may be the some of the least capitalist-leaning Americans, but when a business magazine who’s motto is “The Capitalist Tool” decides to praise business models centered around community, we may do well to pay attention. Read More Here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/edfenergyexchange/2016/08/01/10-reasons-why-we-love-community-solar/#35cfad691c4d...

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Should Agricultural Land be Used for Solar?

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Should Agricultural Land be Used for Solar?

Vermont Community Solar focuses primarily on ground-based solar arrays. These arrays require space, both for the physical array itself and enough land to the south of the array to ensure that the array’s will remain unshaded for the duration of the array. Over the course of 30 years land that could consist of rolling meadows and open space could be transformed; trees could spring up, buildings could be erected, power lines could be built, and all of this would affect the shading profile of that field. For this reason, it is important to ensure that enough land is reserved to ensure that these potential shading hazards don’t affect our arrays. Farmland offers the ideal venue for solar, as it provides the availability of building an array to the north end of a piece of agricultural land, with the land south of the array being farmed year after year, never allowing shading hazards to arise. Building an array on farmland, however, comes with criticism. Let me explain how we at Soveren feel about harvesting the sun rather than harvesting vegetable on land equally suited for both. As you probably know, Vermont is a rural state with about 80% of its territory consisting of forestland. The remaining 20% is made up of urban areas, farmland, and other land used for the pursuit of human activities. When we consider building an array, deforestation is not an option, therefore we must look within that 20% of deforested land for our site. Sure, we may fell a tree if absolutely necessary, but by and large our model calls for the preservation of the land our array will co-exist within. We feel our solar model can actually help the land in a few ways. Allow me to explain: The arrays are temporary installations, and the industry standard for an array’s lifetime is 30 years. Once the array’s lifespan has been reached, the poles we’ve driven into the ground to support the array can simply be pulled out. In the mean time the land our array occupies — which would otherwise be farmed year after year — is given a chance to lie fallow, given the soil a chance to replenish as wild, native plants are given a chance to grow and refresh the nutrient content of the soil reducing the need for petrochemical fertilizers to be applied. We can think of this as a sort of long-term crop rotation, where the harvest of vegetables is replaced with the harvest of energy. Alternatively, the land under the array does not necessarily need be left fallow, but rather be used to grow crops which prefer shade that could otherwise not be grown there, or allow grazing of small mammals such as goats, sheep, or even llamas (added bonus of not needing to mow the field in these cases), countering the nutrient-deplenishing practice of monoculture crops being grown in the same plot of land year after year, leading to soil degradation and erosion. In these ways, we feel our arrays are able to function symbiotically with the fields in which they reside; they allow the owner of the field to generate income they might otherwise seek through farming of the land, they allow the land to be replenished for future generations, and they allow for a host of different potential uses that could be employed which were previously less desirable or unavailable. For those reasons, we tend to disagree with the neighbors in Californias’ opinions expressed in the article attached. Neighbors: Solar farms will make land ‘industrial...

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The Future of Solar Energy Will Be Multifaceted

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When we think solar, almost all of us probably conjure up images in our heads of photovoltaic panels, and when we think large-scale, utility sized solar power plants many might imagine a sea of blue silicon stretching for as far as the eye can see. Certainly there are many solar power plants which live up to this image, but it is far from the only way we can harness solar energy to work for us. Concentrating solar energy using concave mirrors and harnessing the thermal energy produced is another way we can continue to harness the sun. Indeed, as we strive towards a greener energy mix — and eventually a fossil fuel-free one — we must use a multifaceted approach. Concentrated solar in the form of Power Towers will likely see increasing relevance. The reason concentrated solar has a large role to play will be in its ability to store the thermal energy acquired during the day for use during the night. Concentrated solar functions like most traditional power plants — from wood-fired to nuclear — in that there is a heating element is used to boil water into steam to turn a turbine which generates electricity. Power Towers are able to serve as essential enormous thermal batteries, where the heat (thermal energy) harvested during the day is used to maintain molten salt at incredibly high temperatures. The molten salt is then run through a pool of water where it causes steam to be produced, rise, spin a turbine, then be recondensed for another round. The thermal properties of the molten salt used make it ideal for heat retention and the Power Towers are able to produce energy 24/7 since their salt stays hot through the night. Additionally, since the generation of power is no longer coupled directly to solar exposure, but rather coupled to the thermal energy stored, it means that the plant’s electrical generation can be scaled up based on energy demands. This mitigates or eliminates the need to have fossil-fuel backup plants which can be put online when demand increases at peak times. Technology such as Power Towers will have a large role to play as we move forward into a clean energy future, unfortunately they aren’t something you can personally claim to own, nor will we likely see any homes advertising being 100% Power Tower powered anytime soon, so you still have a chance to get your solar bragging rights through PV and help us build the next phase of the clean energy revolution.  ...

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Economies of Scale Make All the Difference

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In Milwaukee there is a buzz among the Eco-conscious community as a group-solar purchasing model is being rolled out. The model allows residents to essentially bundle their orders together in order to bring the cost of equipment down. This innovative group bulk-ordering program has enabled those who have wanted solar for some time now to finally be able to afford it. Here at Soveren, we’ve understood the economies of scale in the solar market for quite awhile now. While the model Milwaukee is experimenting with seems to have residents quite happy, they’d be kicking themselves if our community solar model were to appear there tomorrow. You see, not only is Vermont Community Solar a price competitive model, but it also takes the unseen expenses down the road out of the hand of the consumer and places that burden squarely on our company’s back. With the innovative thinkers we have on our team, we have created a model in which one of our community solar arrays not only benefit from those aforementioned economies of scale, but also benefit from an operations and maintenance, insurance, and seasonal adjustment management plan put together and paid for by each array individually. Let me explain; each array is its own LLC, and in each array a percentage of the panels are reserved and essentially owned by that array’s LLC. The production from the panels not owned by customers is sold to a local non-profit at a reduced rate than the utility charges. The non-profit thus benefits from a cheaper electrical rate and the eco-bling factor of getting their energy from solar. This is called a Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA, and it is through a PPA with a non-profit that we both generate capital to cover any costs associated with operation of the array and are able to provide clean energy to an organization which would not otherwise find solar affordable due to lack of tax liability accompanying non-profit status.   Milwaukee may be getting prices for its residents to an affordable mark, but those residents may find themselves with some unforeseen, out-of-pocket expenses down the road as the system ages. Here at Soveren and Vermont Community Solar, we want to make sure that we keep carrying that torch for you long after installation.  ...

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Insurance Leads to Rooftop Solar Viability in India

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Going solar can be a big investment, and no one likes the possibility of their investment being jeopardized. Insuring one’s solar array is a smart move, and while we don’t have the monkey problem mentioned in the article attached that India does, that doesn’t mean that ensuring the longevity of an array in Vermont isn’t without its own concerns. Luckily, Vermont Community Solar can give you peace of mind. All of the operations and maintenance, insurance, and seasonal adjustments an array could require over its lifetime are covered by Soveren, leaving you the availability to sit back, relax, and enjoy your energy credits without worrying that your neighbor Bill will use your panels as target practice, that a once-in-a-lifetime storm will send watermelon-sized hailstones tumbling down on your precious PV, or that an innocent bird might misjudge its perch for safe, when actually it could trip a fuse. Monkeys may be of little concern, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be covered! Here at Soveren, we got your back....

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