Community Solar FAQ

What scheduled maintenance costs will I be responsible for?

NONE. While there will be scheduled maintenance and repairs costs, you won’t be responsible for any of them for 30 years. Solar panels use a device called an ‘inverter’ to transform the Direct Current (DC) electricity that they produce into Alternating Current (AC) power that most of us use in our homes and businesses. These inverters have a limited lifetime, and a warranty that is often only 10 years. Soveren has factored in the cost of replacing these systems as well as other maintenance including re-tilting the panels seasonally to maximize production and occasionally washing dust off of them. So there will be no surprise costs to you down the road.

What about insurance?

Insurance is now included in the upfront cost for VCS panels. There are no additional fees for participants.

Are tax credits and other subsidies available for me?*

In a Soveren Solar installed Vermont Community Solar project, you get to take advantage of ALL available tax credits and State incentives.  Here’s what you qualify for: solar panel purchasers  qualify for a 30% federal tax credit based on the cost of their panels. It is like having a check made out to the IRS that you can use to pay your taxes.

Can renters qualify for the 30% federal tax incentive?

Yes.

Is solar good for businesses?*

In addition to the above, businesses may qualify for a 7.2% VT state business tax credit. In addition, businesses may take accelerated depreciation on 85% of the cost of their panels over a five year period. Businesses may also qualify for a REAP grant from the USDA to cover 25% of the cost of their purchase. Contact the Soveren Office for further details on the REAP application process. All other present and future subsidies, grants or energy credits associated with the Vermont Community Solar project remain the property of the project developer.

How do I know if my business qualifies for the 7.2% VT State business tax credit?

Vermont offers an investment tax credit for installations of renewable energy equipment on business properties. The credit is equal to 24% of the “Vermont-property portion” of the federal business energy tax credit. For solar, this constitutes a 7.2% state-level credit for systems placed in service on or before 12/31/2016. After this date, solar technologies will be eligible for a 2.4% credit.

The key  issue is that this credit is tied to the federal ITC and not the personal tax credit BUT it is an individual state credit.  That means that the solar project has to be for a business (to be eligible for the federal ITC), but the state credit needs to be taken on an individual return.  C corporations (and others) can’t use this state tax credit as they file a corporate return and not an individual return.

And, of course, you need the state tax liability, but you do have 5 years to use it.

Here is the language from the statute:
32 V.S.A. § 5822. Tax on income of individuals, estates, and trusts
(d)(1) A taxpayer shall be entitled to a credit against the tax imposed under this section of 24 percent of each of the credits allowed against the taxpayer’s federal income tax for the taxable year as follows: elderly and permanently totally disabled credit, investment tax credit attributable to the Vermont-property portion of the investment, and child care and dependent care credits.
(2) Any unused business solar energy investment tax credit under this section may be carried forward for no more than five years following the first year in which the credit is claimed.

Can I afford to participate in Community Solar?

If you can afford your electric bill, you can afford a loan payment (replacing your electric bill) paving the road to free electricity.

What if I don’t have the upfront cash, does it make sense for me to get a loan?

This situation comes up often, and really needs to be looked at individually. Soveren is working with Green Mountain Credit Union to provide unsecured loans that will make borrowing to purchase a system cost less than your monthly electric bill. Call us to help you crunch the numbers. Solar is much more affordable that you may think.

Why are ‘seasonally adjusted’ solar arrays a better deal?

Most large solar arrays are build on what is called ‘fixed rack’ mounting structures. The panels are fixed in place and do not move. Soveren Solar has made the decision to use a panel racking system that allows panels to be tilted seasonally. This allows for better electricity production because the panels are facing directly towards the sun more of the year. It also increases winter production after a snow storm — the panels are oriented with a steep slope to catch the winter sun, which means that they also shed snow better. We estimate a 15-20% increase in electricity production with our arrays over an average home solar installation. This system does require regular maintenance to get that added performance, but the cost is factored into the whole project and we are happy to create local, permanent jobs.

Is any part of the system locally produced?

Yes! We fabricate our racking or mounting system at our shop in Westminster.

What is your philosophy of building on farmland?

This is an important question, and different people have different views. Certainly we prefer to build solar arrays on what are called ‘brownfield sites,’ areas of land that are degraded and cannot be used productively. We also like to use land in industrial parks. This seems like a good fit. Agricultural land we look at on a case-by-case basis: can we use the edge of a field? Is it prime agricultural land? Will the income from the lease help the farmer substantially? Can we work with the farmer to obtain multiple simultaneous uses — solar with grazing of animals, or berry crops? On one level we see solar as just another crop — electricity, but we also understand that good soil cannot be replaced. But a solar array is not like a housing subdivision, it can be easily decommissioned and removed if future conditions warrant it.

What if I move out of the area, can I sell my panels?

You own the panels and you can sell them at any time, but note that you can still receive the solar electric credits if you move to another town anywhere in Green Mountain Power’s territory (most of Southern & Central Vermont). If you ever do want to sell, Soveren will maintain a list of potential buyers who are interested in owning a part of a Community Solar farm and will help you with the transaction. Instead of selling your panels, it is also possible for you to have the credits they produce transferred to another user who would pay you monthly for the energy.

What if Soveren goes out of business?

A portion of the installation is reserved to create a cash flow that will service the project and cover all maintenance and repairs. So, Soveren need not be around to ensure that the installation will be properly cared for. In the unlikely event that Soveren does decide to close its doors, we would ensure that a new manager was arranged for and that the transition was seamless.

What does Soveren do with the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)?

With Vermont Community Solar, your electricity usage is offset by the net metering credits generated by your solar panels. The renewable attributes (RECs) of this electricity can be sold by Vermont Community Solar to keep the cost of your panels affordable but can also be retired bringing the price of your panels to $5/watt.