Can’t Have Panels at your House, Apartment or Business?
We have a solution for you . . .
for those who want to take advantage of solar electric generation despite site conditions or other impediments – shading, maintenance, roof penetration, resale or aesthetics, you can own panels and place them in our solar farm where we maintain your and other customers’ panels for 30 years.
Our business model is to provide emissions-free, solar-sourced net meter credits to anyone regardless of geographic location through allowing individuals and businesses to purchase solar panels and have their panels connected at one of our group off-site solar farms – providing the same financial benefits as if their panels were on their own property. Use of all of the infrastructure needed (land, racking structure, inverters, wiring, maintenance, taxes and insurance) is included in our connection license. Pay once for your panels and we do the rest.
We believe what you will get is good environmental economics – the principals of the company own panels at each of GMCS’s solar farms. You will be buying solar panels that will generate solar-sourced, net metered electric credits which will be applied by our interconnection utility either directly to your utility bill if you are also a customer of our interconnection utility (Green Mountain Power) or if you are not a customer of our interconnection utility, your credits will come to you in the form of a monthly check. If you are buying into one of our currently operating farms, you can elect to also purchase separately the green, clean and renewable aspects of the solar generation.
We can provide you with an estimate of your economics. These are based on an initial cost and 30 years of estimated cost savings through having your panels licensed at one of our group farms. By example, if you were to buy in for $1,000, you are eligible for a $300 federal investment tax credit (ITC) making your initial cost $700. In return you get a license which, based on our estimates of your panels’ production and the utility’s pay rate, allows you to receive approximately $52 per year for 30 years. By our calculations, your upfront panel cost is repaid in approximately 14 years and the tax free return is 7.4%.
Assuming you can take the federal tax credit, your net upfront cost could be as low as 30% less than our list price. Given that there are limited numbers of panels available now (solar rules have changed in VT making permitting and economics of new sites prohibitive), our prices reflect short supply. Please know that you will be billed at $4.50/watt and it will be your tax situation that will dictate whether you can take the federal ITC and thereby realize the $3.15/watt net cost. There simply are no additional costs and you may finance your cost through our credit union partners and others. If you cannot take the federal ITC, then your cost is $4.50/watt. Note that all of these prices quoted in this paragraph assume that you do not purchase the green, clean and renewable portion of the solar generation (these are called Renewable Energy Credits, or RECs). These would cost you an additional 15%, for which you would receive a certificate of REC ownership.
If you are interested in buying additional panels such that the credit value would exceed your utility bill, you would invest through your business or as a limited partner or know that you’ll not be able to take the ITC on the increment of investment exceeding your residential needs, but would have to have other, passive income allowing you to monetize the ITC and any accelerated depreciation. Please call to see if your situation aligns with our offerings.
How the Costs and Economic Returns Work for You
As a residence or business, you consider your solar savings objective (not more than your annual utility bill) and, using our Solar Cost Calculator, estimate the number of panels needed to meet your goal. You then either call us at 802 588 2063 or submit a proposal request. The pricing on our proposal may differ from what is shown by the calculator here as prices do change and the calculator is meant to give an indication only of price and number of panels. On receipt of our proposal, we suggest you study it to confirm your understanding of all of the details of the arrangement you’d be making with us.
Renewable Energy Credits
RECs – These are the environmental attributes of solar panel kWh generation that allow solar panel owners to claim they’ve gone “clean, green, and renewable”. Under new Vermont solar rules, the RECs with projects will be assigned to the VT utility and be retired. Importantly, this means that no solar project in VT from 2017 on will be able to make a claim that it is “clean, green, or renewable”. If you want this attribute, you must buy into one of our pre-2017 permitted farms.
As a current panel owner or one who is purchasing panels at one of our pre 2017 farms, you will be given the option to purchase and retire the renewable energy credits associated with your panels. If you elect to allow GMCS to retain your renewable energy credits (RECs) we will sell these and use proceeds from them to keep the price per panel as low as possible. The sale of RECs is a market-based incentive, intended by state regulators and policy makers to bring more cost-effective solar online. If you would like us to retire any RECs associated with your purchase, we’ll do so, but to offset their lost revenue to our business, we have to increase your initial panel price by 15%. Here is a primer on RECs that we follow. Remember, unless you pay us to retire your RECs, technically, according to the FTC, you are not buying solar power, nor are you buying renewable energy, you are simply buying solar panels and lowering your utility bills through emissions-free solar generation.
It is possible for a household or business to borrow the upfront cost and pay the same or less in loan payments than they currently pay for electricity for the first 10 or 15 years of the license period and then have no payments and continue to have the electric credit-based savings for the remainder of the license period. Financing can be arranged through the bank of your choice, or through Green Mountain Credit Union (John Knox at 802-861-0035) or VSECU (802/800-371-5162). Both have specific programs for this type of project.
Our panel manufacturers provide a 25 year production warranty – specifically, the manufacturer guarantees that the panels will produce 80% of their nameplate rating 25 years from now or the manufacturer will replace them. And in 25 years, the electricity that the panels generate should be worth significantly more than it is today as electricity prices go up. The value of your credits is based on the rates provided by the utility where our solar farms are located. We’ve taken a look at the future of electric prices in VT – and used historical average Green Mountain Power (the utility service territory in which our solar farms are located) rate increases as the basis for our estimated 2.0% annual increases (starting in 2018). Furthermore, to the extent others have also used this figure, the VT Department of Public Service’s director, Asa Hopkins, uses this rate increase in his forecasts (as of Oct. 2016).
We insure your panels through a tier 1 solar insurance market underwriter and guarantee contractually that we will host your panels and their ability to connect to the meter for 30 years.
Importantly, and a risk factor for anyone investing in solar panels, whether they are on a rooftop, back yard or at a community solar farm, panels only generate value if they see the sun and the utility pays for the associated kWhs produced through sun exposure. We keep the panels from shade, but if, due to weather or climate changes, the sun does not shine where your panels are connected, that is very much out of all of our control. And, while we lobby on behalf of our panel owners, we cannot expect to influence VT solar reimbursement rates, which are set through the 5.100 rules.
Our Track Record
Our first solar farm began providing electric credits to panel owners in December 2014. Our second farm started July 2015. Our third farm started December 2106, our fourth started June 14, 2016. Panels can be purchased now at our fifth site which became operational during Feb 2017. For information on these, please visit our farm sites page. The following graph shows our Chester (farm #2) actual kWh production versus predicted.
Jim Wuertele and his wife Alice, homeowners in St. Johnsbury, are customers. Jim happens to also be the town of St. Johnsbury’s energy committee coordinator. He said, “here is the perfect solution for those wanting to get emissions-free solar generation, but can’t do it at their house.”
Wells River Savings Bank’s vice president, Graham Gove commented, “The bank is pleased to join this community effort and to have a portion of its electricity generated locally and from emissions-free solar sources. Additionally, we find this a good investment for the bank.”
With the participation of the nonprofit organization, Catamount Film and Arts in St. Johnsbury, GMCS met its goal of having a broad base of community participants. “This project, following our renovations and energy audit savings, allows Catamount Arts to both control its costs and participate in sound environmental practices right here in the Northeast Kingdom,” said Jody Fried, Catamount’s executive director.
Our maintenance and operating costs and our ability to pay direct checks to non GMP customers are secured by our relationships with our corporate and municipal partners. We apply GMP electric credits for the panels we (GMCS) owns in each solar farm plus any credits generated by non-GMP buyers to the accounts of our corporate and municipal partners. These partners pay us around 90% of the value of those credits, keeping the remainder as a discount on their electric costs.
Businesses, Non Profits and Municipalities
Any business (C Corp) that pays taxes can save each year by purchasing panels (and taking the federal tax credit), depreciating the panels on an accelerated five-year schedule and, if the business is registered as a Vermont LLC, it can receive a Vermont investment tax credit of 7.2% in addition to the federal tax credit of 30%. Returns are in the 7 to 8% after tax range.
Any nonprofit can participate. The most cost-effective way is for a donor to make a restricted gift to the organization and take an associated charitable tax deduction. Alternatively, the nonprofit could make the purchase directly, but as a tax exempt organization, it cannot take advantage of the federal or state investment tax credits. If the nonprofit is to make the purchase itself, please contact us for preferential rates.
Any municipality in GMP’s service territory can participate as well. Call for details of how we can work together to make your finances work.
We respect your privacy. While we are confident in our projections, this project may involve risks of financial loss that you should be prepared to bear.