A Vermont Native, Building Energy
Peter Pembroke, originally from Burlington, did not expect to become a part of Vermont’s burgeoning solar industry, “I actually got into this by accident. I met these guys who asked if I’d like to be their solar sales guy, and I said…’okay.’” He laughs.
Despite this casual entry into the world of solar energy, Pembroke’s enthusiasm for Vermont’s growing solar infrastructure is anything but. He explains that Vermont created the net metering system with the Vermont legislature and the Public Service Board, to “create a framework for everyday individuals to become renewable power producers” on their own property.
The Few Cents Incentive
The economics of becoming a power producer are grounded in electrical logistics, Pembroke explains. When a customer installs a solar array, the power produced goes back into the grid—the regional power supply. The utility companies in Vermont open up an energy credit system that extends for a 12-month cycle, so that the customer builds credit during the sunnier summer months, that they can apply to their bills when the array is less productive in the winter.
“Individual solar producers get what is called a ‘solar adder’”. He says.
For every kilowatt hour (kWh) sold back to the grid, the customer is paid a few cents “adder” for having produced electricity locally. This is instead of the utility purchasing energy from the New England grid, which has a much lower percentage of renewable energy.
‘When you couple the solar adder with the tax credits that are available from the federal government, that’s what makes solar financially viable to the residential customer.” Pembroke continues.
“A typical array pays off in 8-12 years,” Pembroke says. And if you take advantage of financing offers at many local credit unions and banks, this can be even shorter.
Pembroke explains that most solar panels come with warranties, which vary depending on the array. This typically covers the panels themselves, as well as a guarantee that the panels will produce a certain percentage of the energy that they have the capacity to produce (this is known as the “power rating”).
Watts on the Roof
Pembroke explains that at Building Energy, if a customer calls to inquire about solar, he asks them a handful of questions to make sure that their home and location are suitable for solar, then he sets up a consultation to measure their roof. If the customer is interested in getting the most out of their array, Building Energy also encourages them to do an energy audit to ensure that their home energy use is as efficient as it can be before sizing a solar array. He then conducts a survey and gives the customer a quote for the price of installation.
“Hopefully they say yes, and then we come and do the install. It takes usually a day or two to perform the installation.” He says.
The Georgia resident has been with Building Energy for over a year, and says “Being a local company, we are in complete control of the company. The mission and vision are very well defined. We do what we do and we stick to our guns.”
Pembroke feels this is all part of being a Vermonter, where he has lived his entire life. He says he loves Vermont for “the lifestyle here… [it’s] chill, relaxed…our climate and recreational activities really make the quality of life here.”
Though Pembroke’s own home was not suitable for a solar installation (too much shade) he does what he can to be more efficient at a personal level. For Pembroke, this means swapping ordinary light bulbs for extra-efficient LEDs, and using a setback thermostat, which can be programmed to heat and cool a house at different settings depending on the time of day. To him, these measures are pretty “basic”. He’s just happy to be in his home state, taking part in an exciting new field.