What are the trends right now in the energy world?
Our energy uses have historically been relatively separate. Often, we pay multiple bills for different types of energy use. We “fill up” our car at the gas station, write a check for our oil tank to be filled up or spend time and energy preparing for winter by stockpiling wood , and write a separate check for our electricity needs. These three sectors (transportation, thermal and power) are beginning to converge. We are seeing more people install solar panels on their home, and then switch to an electric vehicle for transportation and to cold climate heat pumps for heating needs. Overall, this “fuel switch” from traditional fuels to renewably powered electricity is a savings in dollars as well as energy. We are also seeing more people carpool, choose to live in places that require less individual driving, and switch to more efficient wood heating options. Finally, many of our utilities are contracting more power from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass while also increasing how efficient we are with our energy usage. For more information on the latest trends, check out Drive Electric Vermont.
What are the different ways I can “go renewable”?
There are a few ways that people can “go renewable” in Vermont. The one that is most common is through net-metering, where your system is connected to the electrical grid, and when your system is producing, your electrical meter essentially “goes backward” – giving you a reduced energy bill and saving energy because the energy is produced right where it is used. Net-metering is allowable up to 500 kiloWatts in size. An average Vermont home typically sees a solar system of about 5 – 15 kiloWatts, but a community solar project could be as large as 500 kiloWatts. Another way is through the SPEED program – this is typically much larger in size (MegaWatt sized projects). Within the SPEED program, there is the Standard Offer program – which is a program in which project developers “bid” their project into a competitive review, usually in April of each calendar year. For the next few years, the Standard Offer program is capped each year to a total of 5 megaWatts in size, with the largest individual project being 2.2 megaWatts in size. One can also approach their utility to assess whether the utility might be interested in a “Power Purchase Agreement” – basically, an agreement that the utility will buy a certain amount of power from a certain project.
What is the best renewable energy option for my home?
To maximize your savings in both energy and also how much money you spend on energy, the first thing you need to do is to identify how much energy you use and how many dollars you spend on thermal needs (heating and cooling your home), for transportation (e.g. driving your car), and for electricity (to power your appliances). A weatherization audit, which costs roughly ~$400 and can take 3-5 hours, will review all of your thermal and power uses within your home. Depending on your home, it may make sense to undertake more insulation and install a cold climate heat pump that is powered by solar panels, or to switch to a highly efficient wood pellet boiler, or to make a different upgrade entirely.
The renewable energy option that is best for your home depends on a number of factors including the size, age, location, and orientation of your home. To get a better understanding of which renewable energy option is best for your home, visit our technologies page.
How will I know if solar panels (or other technologies) will work on my home?
Talk to an installer. They will conduct a site-visit at your home and provide you with a quote. It is suggested that you contact more than one installer, so that you can identify the best fit and best price for your energy savings solutions.
Solar panels should be installed in a sunny spot, free of any shading from trees or other structures. For roof-mounted systems, south facing roofs are ideal. Wind turbines are most effective in locations that receive strong, steady wind, with the turbine being raised far above any tree line or other wind-obstructon. Occasional strong gusts are not ideal.
How much will solar/wind/geothermal/biomass/hydro cost at my home?
The cost to install and maintain one of these system depends on a few factors. These include the size of the system, what you are using it for, and if you are combing two RE options (for example, solar photovoltaics & geothermal). To get an estimate for a system unique to your home, search the Partner Installer Directory to find an installer near you. Keep in mind that that there are a number of incentives and financing options (see below).
What financing options or incentives are available for installing solar/bio/geo/hydro/wind?
- PACE (IF your town has passed it): PACE is offered through Efficiency Vermont. PACE is a program that authorizes towns and municipalities to create Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) districts. Municipalities that have approved PACE are authorized to fund the costs of installed renewable energy on residential property within their boundaries. Learn more about PACE at these sites: https://www.efficiencyvermont.com/for-our-partners/PACE-For-Town-Administrators, http://pacevermont.wikispaces.com/Welcome+to+PACE+Vermont.
- Incentive Program (SSREIP through RERC) Small Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Program provides funding for residential, commercial, and special-category (schools, municipalities, non-profit housing). The incentive amounts vary, but normally does not exceed $10k. In order to qualify for SSREIP funding, an approved business must be the primary installer on the renewable energy project. You can find Partner Installers here.
- SPEED/Standard Offer: For more information on SPEED/ Standard Offer, visit the Vermont Electric Cooperative.
- VSECU Green Loans/Solar Loans: Offers energy improvement mortgages.
- VEDA has a number of loans for businesses to improve efficiency and install RE.
- Vermont Gas offers their customers various efficiency programs and loans to cover the cost of new heating equipment for both residential and commercial systems.
I want someone to install solar/wind/etc. at my house, do you know of any installers in my town?
Search the Member Directory to find an installer near you. (Press control + f and type in your zip code to easily check if any installers are listed).
What is community Solar?
Community Solar is defined as a solar-electric system that, through a voluntary program, provides power and/or financial benefit to, or is owned by, multiple community members. To learn more about community solar, check out A Guide to Community Solar.
I’d like to build community solar on my property, how do I do that? I want to build a solar array and enroll in group net metering, selling energy to my neighbors? I have a piece of land and want to build a solar farm, where do I start?
Building a community solar project is a significant undertaking. You will need to understand and comply with:
- Any relevant local, state and federal permitting requirements;
- The requirements of the Public Service Board;
- Depending on the size of your project you may need to comply with specific requirements of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission;
- the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation regarding securities;
- Requirements from your interconnecting utility;
- Requirements from your bank, lender or financing agent;
- and, potentially, other requirements.
You will also need to identify the total size of the project and who the various “offtakers” of the energy will be. You will likely want to establish a new Limited Liability Corporation with clearly articulated rules and processes for all parties who will be using the energy produced by the project.
Alternatively, there are many businesses that do this “upfront” work for you, and all you need to do is “sign up”. Many of the REV members will offer this service for you, so please do feel free to contact the solar provider of your interest. However, there are a few businesses that are actively undertaking this type of project, including Clean Energy Collective, SunCommon, AllEarth Renewables, groSolar, NRG Residential and RealGoods – all listed on the REV member website.
What is net-metering?
Net metering requires electric utilities to permit an individual customer or group of individual customers (referred to as group net metering) to generate their own power using small-scale renewable energy systems and qualified combined heat and power systems using non-renewable fuels. The excess power they generate can be fed back to their utilities. Net metering makes it easier and more cost-effective for Vermonters to generate their own electricity. To learn more about net-metering, click here.
I want to lease my land to someone to build a solar farm, how do I do this?
In order to do this, you must contact a developer who can determine if your land is ideal for a solar farm. To find a developer near you, click here.
I have a group of students who are studying renewable energy and we would like to tour a solar farm, a wind farm, etc. Can you help?
Yes, send an e-mail to email@example.com explaining your location, how far you are willing to travel, if there are specific technologies and sizes of projects that you would like to visit and any other relevant information. REV can then identify a few specific locations in or close to your area and introduce you to the relevant contacts for you to move forward with asking for a tour.
For energy education programs, also visit: http://veep.org/
A river runs through my property, can I install hydro power?
Federal permitting for hydro is very extensive, lengthy, and time-consuming. Few “new” hydro projects are being developed as a result – although some “micro” hydro dams are being built. However, opportunities do exist for retrofitting old dams. Learn more about hydroelectric development through the Vermont Public Service Board here.
COWPOWER: What is it? How do I enroll?
Cow power refers to converting cow manure into renewable energy which prevents harmful methane from reaching the atmosphere. This is important because methane on dairy farms accounts for the majority of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. To learn more about cow power, visit Green Mountain Power.
I’d like to get more involved with energy issues. How can I go about doing this?
1. For your local town energy committee
2. For your spiritual community
3. For those interested in the “digital” age and gaming