SunCommon financing program helps Vermont organic farmers go solar


SunCommon, headquartered in Waterbury, Vermont, launched a program that offers to help Organic Valley farmers go solar with zero upfront costs. Organic Valley is the largest farmer-owned organic cooperative in the US with a footprint of 100+ Vermont farms. The program provides Organic Valley farmer-members with financing for solar and other renewable energy projects. Farmers benefit from a fully-funded solar installation with no upfront costs, and they save on their energy bill.

While SunCommon has offered zero upfront solar to schools and municipalities, this is the first time the company has offered this financing to farms. “They are usually hard to finance, with their capital needs high on the farm operations and low ability to use solar tax incentives on their own,” said Mike McCarthy, commercial solar project consultant at SunCommon.

Early participants in this program include Vermont dairy farmers and Organic Valley farmer-members Guy and Matt Choiniere. Now their 500-acre, fourth-generation farm has two recently completed solar projects on the rooftops of two existing barns that will produce an estimated 115,500 kWh annually with a projected annual cost savings totalling more than $20,000. The larger (72kW) project, which has 197 Talesun 365W modules, is expected to offset close to all of their electricity costs. The smaller (32kW) project with 88 Talesun 365W modules, is offsetting power costs for the Bouchard Family Farm up the road.

“What I love is that this revives a barn that was losing value and that we were planning to retire,” said Guy Choiniere. “Now, with new solar panels on the roof, we have revitalized this space such that there is a new milking parlor on the inside producing value and energy production on top, also producing value. And, it was all so easy to do. SunCommon managed the entire process, including labor, materials, and all the nitty gritty details. We were able to carry on with our daily farm operations without a hitch.”

To date, SunCommon has worked with 75 farmers in Vermont and New York on solar energy projects.

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