Five towns in the Monadnock Region — Peterborough, Sharon, Rindge, Hancock and Fitzwilliam — were the first participants in Monadnock Energy Hub’s “Solarize Monadnock” campaign. Solarize Monadnock is a community-based solar energy group purchasing campaign that makes solar more accessible and affordable in many cases for the residents of these towns.
“We had well over 500 participants at two events, people actively interested and signing up for site evaluations or to learn more about solar energy,” says Tom Hobbs, solar design specialist and marketing ambassador for ReVision Energy, which was chosen by the five towns as the solar array installer of choice for the campaign.
The Solarize Monadnock campaign is meant to increase the number of solar installations in the region. Town leaders from the five communities have taken the lead in spearheading the project; leaders include Dori Drachman in Peterborough, Michelle Russell in Hancock, Anne Fischer in Sharon, Pat Martin in Rindge, and Stephanie Scherr in Fitzwilliam.
Since its formation in August 2018, Solarize Monadnock has resulted in 43 solar projects sold; the average project size is 8.10 kW (largest is 20.08 kW and smallest is 3.8 kW). So far, because of the project, 380,200 pounds of CO2 have been offset, according to statistics kept by Solaraize Monadnock.
Those who signed up to learn more from ReVision Energy got primers on the benefits of solarizing their homes, available financing and weatherization possibilities aimed at reducing their carbon footprint and bringing energy independence to the region.
Mary Ewell, the program coordinator for the Monadnock Energy Hub, says the campaign was about promoting solutions aimed at reducing greenhouse gases in the Monadnock Region and ultimately around the state.
“We are the umbrella group that is helping the grass-roots volunteers stick together,” says Ewell. “But at the end of the day, it’s the town volunteers who are the boots on the ground.”
Drachman says volunteers in Peterborough and Rindge were raring to go when they learned about the campaign.
“The volunteers did a lot of getting the word out and presenting at lots of different forums, including tabling, talking to groups, sending out press releases, house parties and hosting big events,” she says.
These included kickoff events at the Town House in Peterborough and at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge and informational sessions at Post & Beam Brewing in Peterborough and the Hancock Town Library.
“We tried to make it as user-friendly and as a positive an experience as possible,” says Drachman.
She says Rindge and Peterborough were able to hit the ground running because people in those towns are incredibly concerned about climate change and solutions that can be implemented on the local level.
“Peterborough has an active energy committee and there is much else going on in town around climate change and renewables,” notes Drachman.
SAVING MONEY THROUGH SOLARIZE MONADNOCK
“We install both rooftop and ground-mounted systems,” says Hobbs. “A typical residential rooftop system ranges anywhere from $20,000 and $30,000 before federal and state incentives and ground-mounted systems usually range between $30,000 and $40,000, again before incentives.”
Through the Solarize Monadnock campaign, system discounts range anywhere from 6-7%, depending on the type, size and complexity of the installation, he notes.
“We can design any system a customer needs,” says Hobbs. “It’s really dependent on the site and what a customer’s goals are.”
ReVision Energy, a Certified B Corporation that is owned by its employees, is headquartered in Brentwood, New Hampshire. The company was born out of a collaboration between Bill Behrens and Patrick Coon, who founded Energyworks LLC in 2003 by merging their businesses, the renewable division of the Greenstore in Belfast, Maine, and Energy Options in Liberty, Maine.
In 2008, Energyworks was renamed ReVision Energy and went on to install some of the largest solar projects in the Northeast in the following years. In 2010, ReVision opened its Brentwood office and by 2012, the company had installed more than 3,000 systems. In 2015, it opened offices in Concord and Exeter, with one soon following in North Andover, Massachusetts. Today, Revision has more than 200 employee-owners who install solar panels, commercial LED lighting, solar-powered water heating, ductless heat pumps, electric vehicle charging stations and battery backups.
Throughout its expansion, ReVision has stayed true to its main mission, says Hobbs.
“Our No. 1 goal is to reduce carbon emissions,” he says.
As a Certified B (B as in “benefit”) Corporation, ReVision has committed itself to a defined set of non-traditional business practices that benefit employees, customers and the broader community by creating a positive impact on society and the environment. Unlike traditional corporations, Certified B Corporations are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on their shareholders, but also on their stakeholders, which includes workers, suppliers, community, consumers, and the environment.
“We are a company driven by a mission to reduce fossil fuel use in northern New England,” states ReVision Energy’s website. “We offer a product that helps reduce energy costs for both the consumer and for society, offering protection against electric rate instability and furthering independence.”
SOLAR’S RAPID GROWTH
ReVision installs commercial systems, but its main focus is residential, with systems made up of between 13 and 30 solar panels.
“That usually covers between 50 and 100 percent of a home’s energy needs,” he says.
And depending on the amount of electricity the system produces, a homeowner might receive a credit if their system is producing more electricity than is needed to power the home.
“In the state of New Hampshire, the average payback is around eight to 12 years, depending on the size of the system, the homeowner’s electric needs and whether they purchase the system or finance it,” said Hobbs.
While the most recent campaign was focused on the five towns previously mentioned, says Hobbs, ReVision has been working with people throughout the Monadnock Region.
“We are enjoying working with the people in this area,” he says. “It’s a great community. We want to continue to do business with people who share similar values and want to address the existential threat of climate change.”
ReVision Energy is a member of the Amicus Solar Cooperative, which was founded in 2011 to support small solar installation companies by sharing best practices and pooling their buying power. Amicus is a purchasing cooperative that is jointly owned and democratically managed by its member companies.
Being a member of Amicus helps companies such as ReVision deal with “the ebbs and flows” of the global power industry, notes Hobbs, especially with new tariffs that have increased the costs of solar panels.
“We have been impacted by the solar tariffs and have had to increase the cost of installations because the cost of materials has increased,” says Hobbs. “However, because we are a member of Amicus, we were able to plan for this in advance, as opposed to being hit unexpectedly by these increased costs.”
Despite the increased costs due to tariffs, solar installations continue apace around the country. The U.S. installed 2.7 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics in the first quarter of 2019 — an increase of 10 percent over last year during the same time period according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report. This marks the country’s strongest installation numbers ever in a first quarter. It looks like the industry’s predicted solar rebound is indeed taking place. And it is expected to continue: Total installed solar capacity in the United States is expected to double over the next five years, according to the report.
“The rapid growth of solar energy is largely due to dropping installed costs of equipment, rising rates of conventional energy sources and increasing concern about the harmful impacts of carbon pollution,” states ReVision’s website.
Ewell points out that there will be another campaign kicking off in August, though she wasn’t at liberty to say yet which towns would be the focus.
She did remind people that they have until the end of the year to receive a 30 percent tax credit for a solar installation from the federal government. That tax credit goes down to 26 percent in 2020 and decreases each year after that.
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Robert Audette writes from Swanzey, New Hampshire