Burlington, VT – The Burlington Electric Department today, joined by Mayor Miro Weinberger, launched its new Solar Shopper program, designed to help Burlingtonians shop for solar through a new, easy-to-use, web-based comparison shopping tool. This program is designed to help residential and small commercial customers install net-metered solar arrays of up to 15 kilowatts. Through a partnership with six solar vendors, Burlington Electric, the first utility in Vermont to offer such a program, will help its customers make better solar decisions by providing personalized, comparative pricing information within three business days. Burlington Electric has set an ambitious goal of 100 new solar installations during the upcoming year.
“Whether we’re partnering with the community to ‘defeat the peak,’ helping customers with the purchase of electric vehicles, installing EV charging stations, or now working with the community to go and grow solar, Burlington Electric honors its ongoing commitment to build a sustainable energy future that supports a growing economy and a thriving community,” stated Neale Lunderville, Burlington Electric General Manager. “Once again, Burlington Electric is leading through energy innovation, and Solar Shopper is an important component of our efforts to make Burlington a net zero energy city.”
The number of solar installations in Burlington has increased six-fold since the Weinberger Administration began to focus on making it easier to go solar in Burlington. Prior to 2012, fewer than 25 solar arrays had been installed in Burlington.
“Solar power is now a real, affordable option for many Vermonters,” said Mayor Weinberger. “This exciting new BED program will make it much easier for Burlingtonians to join the solar revolution, help us keep electric rates low, and move the community closer to achieving our net zero goal.”
Easy-to-Use Web Tool
Burlington Electric customers are invited and encouraged to take advantage of the Solar Shopper program by visiting our web site and entering a minimal amount of information, including: name; property address; type of installation (roof or ground-mounted); roof type and age; and most important aspect of going solar (quick return on investment, low monthly payment, reducing electric bill, top quality equipment). Once a customer completes the online form and gives consent, Burlington Electric will provide its solar vendor partners with electric usage information, and each partner will have the opportunity to prepare a customized, free estimate based on the specific information provided. Burlington Electric then will prepare for its customer a one-page solar quotes document in an easy-to-compare format (sample document below), including a column for each solar vendor who provided an estimate. Information categories will include: number of panels; size of array in kilowatts; annual kilowatt hours produced; total system cost; estimated cost after incentives; country of manufacture for panels; warranty information for panels, inverters, and system workmanship; panel performance warranty after 25 years; estimated bill savings in year one and payback time period using Burlington Electric rate projections; estimated install time; and financing options.
RFP and BED’s Solar Partners
In May 2017, Burlington Electric issued a request for proposals (RFP) seeking solar vendor partners. RFP responses were due in early June, and solar partners were selected through an objective screening process. The RFP process included the following evaluation criteria: degree to which solar installer has experience in the Burlington region, including the ability to demonstrate customer satisfaction on previous projects; confirmation that installer will offer Tier 1 solar panels; clarity and comprehensiveness of sample contract documents and system performance assumptions; and capacity to respond quickly to customer requests for estimates allowing for three-day turn-around for estimates.
Based on the RFP process, Burlington Electric selected the following six partners: Building Energy; Catamount Solar; DC Energy Innovations; Peck Solar – A Division of Peck Electric; SunCommon; and Vermont Solar, LLC. Each partner signed a partner agreement and paid a $150 annual fee to become a qualified Burlington Electric solar partner. Additionally, each partner agreed to pay a $300 fee to Burlington Electric for each customer who receives a new solar installation initiated through the web tool, in recognition of Burlington Electric’s role in helping the solar vendors with customer outreach and engagement. The fees will be applied toward program costs and benefit all ratepayers. Representatives from each of these partners participated in the program launch, offering the following statements about Solar Shopper:
“Building Energy was founded in 2007 to fight climate change,” said Nik Ponzio, Co-founder and Senior Project Engineer, Building Energy. “We help Vermonters reduce their carbon footprint through energy efficiency, weatherization, and renewable energy solutions. We are very excited to be part of this new BED solar initiative. With the political climate heating up in Washington, DC and the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, it is more important than ever to let people know We're Still In!”
“Catamount Solar is pleased to participate in BED's Solar Shopper program,” said Kevin McCollister, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Catamount Solar. “The Solar Shopper program will provide BED customers with a simple and convenient way to obtain solar installation quotes from multiple pre-qualified vendors. As Vermont's only employee-owned solar company, Catamount Solar understands that customer value comes in many ways and, by having an easy platform to compare and evaluate offers from multiple solar providers, rate payers will obtain the best systems that meet their needs.”
“DC Energy Innovations is proud to be part of Burlington Electric’s Solar Shopper program,” said Ben Gordesky, Renewable Energy Manager, DC Energy Innovations. “With our solar office in the diverse Old North End of Burlington, we are conveniently located to serve Burlington homeowners in all parts of the City. We have completed many quality solar installations for Burlington homeowners, businesses, and non-profits since we began installing solar in 2009. One of our largest installations in the City is at the BED warehouse, which we completed in 2015.”
“Peck Electric is an electrical contractor that has been in business in the Burlington area for 45 years,” said Steven Yates, Solar Project Manager, Peck Solar – A Division of Peck Electric. “Our dedicated solar division, Peck Solar, started installing solar systems in 2009, and Solar Power World has ranked us among the Top 100 Solar Contractors nationally since 2015. We have installed over 2,500 residential systems throughout Vermont, making us one of the state's most experienced solar installers. Peck Solar has been instrumental in Burlington’s recent solar renaissance by installing systems on many Burlington homes, schools, and businesses, as well as a system on the Echo Center and a large roof-mounted array at the Burlington International Airport that is an important part of the City’s power generation portfolio. We are happy to continue to increase the adoption of solar in Burlington through BED’s innovative Solar Shopper program, which will make it easier than ever for Burlington residents to go solar.”
“Burlington is a leader for sustainable living, but there’s work to be done to bring clean energy to more Burlington homes – that’s why we’re here,” said Clary Franko, Organizing Director, SunCommon. “Burlington Electric’s Solar Shopper program is an opportunity for the City to move closer, and more quickly, to a net-zero future. As Vermont’s largest local residential solar company, we are pleased to join the effort, and offer a wide range of products, including our Solar Canopy, dual-sided ground systems, and powerful rooftop arrays, to help Burlington residents go solar easily and affordably.”
“I am happy that BED has undertaken this initiative to promote residential photovoltaics in my hometown,” said Kirk Herander, Owner and President, Vermont Solar, LLC. “This continues Vermont Solar’s longstanding relationship with BED and Public Works staff. As Vermont’s most experienced PV design/build company, we have maintained a full-time presence in the City since 1991. We are committed to the highest custom system design/build standards, 100% performed in-house, for all Burlington homeowners.”
“Saving money, helping the climate, and going solar are easier than ever thanks to Burlington Electric's partnership with Renewable Energy Vermont members,” said Olivia Campbell Andersen, Renewable Energy Vermont Executive Director. “Choosing local, small businesses to help lower energy costs is the fastest and most reliable way to go.”
The Solar Shopper program will not be the first time Burlington Electric has served its customers as a trusted advisor related to solar installations. Burlington Electric already has served as a solar installation project liaison between solar vendors and the University of Vermont beginning in 2016 and the Burlington School District earlier this year.
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