2012 International Year of Cooperatives: Learn More about a Local Co-op!

Oil Co-op Goes Solar

By John Quinney, General Manager, Energy Co-op of Vermont

The Energy Co-op of Vermont delivers heating oil and wood pellets to 2,100 members, primarily in Chittenden County. We also repair, maintain and replace furnaces, boilers and pellet stoves. We encourage our members to use less oil by getting energy audits and following up with home energy improvements.

Four years ago, heating oil prices reached five dollars a gallon and we noticed that many of our members were getting fewer oil deliveries. No surprise there! Turns out, quite a few of our members had purchased pellet stoves and were burning wood pellets to heat their homes. We decided to get into the pellets business and now deliver about 1,100 tons of wood pellets a year, made by Vermont Wood Pellets in North Clarendon, Vermont. This replaces about 130,000 gallons of heating oil.

Now, heating oil prices are four dollars a gallon and we’ve responded by launching Co-op Solar, our solar hot water program, open to all homeowners, not just Co-op members. We’ve designed Co-op Solar to make solar hot water installations easy and affordable.

We’ve made solar simple.

Going solar used to be difficult. You had to research technologies, identify an installer, and file the permits yourself. It look a lot of time and wasn't very efficient. Now it's easy. Here at the Energy Co-op of Vermont, we've done the hard work so our members don't have to. We've picked the best equipment, chosen attractive financing and selected top notch installers - and we take care of all the paperwork.

We’ve made solar affordable

You will be hard put to find a better value for solar hot water anywhere. We negotiated volume discounts with our suppliers (Sunward Systems in Vergennes) and pass the savings on to our members and customers. Our solar hot water systems qualify for a 30% federal tax credit and a $900 state rebate check. And to make it easier to pay for Co-op Solar, we have arranged for financing to be provided by another cooperative, VSECU, through their solar loan program. Our installers are certified by Renewable Energy Vermont. They take care of all the permits, and complete most installations in less than a day.

Low-cost financing saves money

A typical Vermont family of four spends about $600 a year on oil, propane or electricity for domestic hot water - and energy costs have nowhere to go but up. But solar energy is free, and Co-op Solar will save a four-person Vermont family upwards of $20,000 over the next 20 years. Homeowners who finance their solar hot water heater over fifteen years, will save more than they spend from year one.

If you use natural gas to heat your hot water, the economics are much less attractive. However, if you want to reduce your fossil fuel use to do your part to help address climate change, then solar hot water is an easy and attractive option.

We offer free site assessments

It's easy to use the sun to heat your hot water. Our solar panels go on your roof or in your yard. If your roof faces within 45º of south and receives six hours or more of sunlight a day, that’s where your panels should go. Installation is quick and easy, and most of our members choose our roof-mounted system if they can. For others, ground-mounted panels work well. They come with an added benefit, since they often do double duty as a garden shed or storage area. All systems come with a ten-year warranty from Sunward, the manufacturer.

To find out what's best for you, we offer a free, no-risk site assessment. We'll answer your questions, see if your home is suitable for solar, and provide you with more information. There's no obligation, no risk - and it's free. You can sign-up at the Co-op Solar website.

Help the Energy Co-op spread the word

We’re counting on cooperatives like City Market and VSECU, as well as other businesses and individuals who share our interest in promoting renewable energy, to help us get the word out. So, please tell your friends and neighbors about Co-op Solar.

At present, Co-op Solar is available in Burlington, Colchester, Winooski, Essex, Essex Junction, South Burlington and Williston. We will launch Co-op Solar in other towns when we see enough interest – determined, in part, by sign-ups at our web site.

We are now scheduling Co-op Solar presentations at local events, community gatherings and neighborhood parties. Please contact us about a Co-op Solar presentation in your community.