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The State of Solar in Vermont: RJ Adler

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Photo credit: Katie Chamberlain

Source: Katie Chamberlain, Middlebury College

"Don't use it if you don't need it"

R.J. Adler is the Addison County community organizer at SunCommon, the largest solar installer in Vermont. He moved out West after graduating from Middlebury College in 2011, but he quickly found his way back to Vermont. He likes the Middlebury community for its size and its people, and he appreciates the ability to make an impact by being involved, even if only on a small scale.  R.J. lives by the motto “don’t use it if you don’t need it.” This has inspired him to turn off his lights, reduce and reuse, walk whenever possible, and keep his house at 50 degrees in the winter.

Explaining solar power and RECs

As a community organizer at SunCommon, R.J.’s job is to educate the community about solar power, market the company’s programs to repower the state, and assist in people’s energy transition. He meets with community leaders, business leaders, and town and state government on a regular basis.

For R.J., the hardest challenge he faces is resistance to big solar and the widespread misinformation about Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). RECs were created as a market solution to climate change, forcing dirty energy to pay for clean energy. For example, if a utility company must generate a certain amount of renewable energy, but lacks the means to do so, the company can purchase RECs from a renewable energy system. The renewable system selling these RECs can use this money toward renewable energy projects, helping pump money into the clean energy economy. So far, RECs have helped put $1 billion into clean energy in New England.

R.J. often meets with community members to explain how RECs work at SunCommon. SunCommon sells RECs for the first 7 years of community solar projects because this creates affordable solar energy that is actually cheaper than conventional power. If SunCommon chose not to sell RECs, many people would no longer be able to afford solar power, making this a social justice issue.

The future of solar in Vermont 

R.J. seems optimistic about the future of solar. The industry is booming in Vermont, with 1,400 employees. The state offers plenty of options for solar installation - lease and loan programs, buy out right programs, and community solar programs of 25-30 people. There are a number of incentives for commercial, residential, and municipal buildings. Community organizers are empowering Vermonters to switch to solar and the above options are creating broader accessibility to solar power.

How building codes can help us in the energy transition

When asked about potential improvements in energy use, R.J. had lots of suggestions for the town of Middlebury and the state, to make reducing energy use easier for inhabitants and the town itself. He emphasized the importance of continuing to educate townspeople about energy issues. R.J. also proposed changing building codes to require that new buildings have solar panels. He would like to see more incentives to make houses energy efficient, more hours for the ACTR, and more bike paths.

RJ is helping to spread the word about solar. Keep up the good work!


  • SunCommon lets you own your solar panels at no upfront cost
  • Or you can participate in a Community Solar Array (CSA) project
  • RECs help pay for solar projects

 Weblinks: To find out more about SunCommon, visit: