B y Jaime Thomas
Providing a tenth of Green Mountain College’s energy was a significant solar project for Positive Energy, but it wasn’t their first and it won’t be their last.
The solar building and contracting company in Granville has expanded its services to the point that solar projects now comprise more than half of the company’s activities and revenues, according to Khanti Munro, vice president of solar operations.
Certified in both New York and Vermont, Positive Energy has been bringing solar to residences and on a larger scale for about three years. Munro said the company’s owner, Joe Thomas, made the decision to go solar during the recession.
“Solar seemed like a good fit for his skill set and his employees’ skill sets. When times got tough he decided to expand into it as another business opportunity, and it’s kind of paid off,” he said, explaining that the business’s new name embodies Positive Construction’s transition into solar.
The company has delved into an expanding market, even in the local, rural population.
“In rural areas it’s harder to grow quicker, and there’s more competition. It’s growing very quickly,” Munro said. He brings 15 years of solar experience, doing everything from installer to trainer to vice president of operations. He said his initial motivation for the business came during a trip to India.
“I came back to the United States and saw how we needed to transition to more alternative energy,” he said, explaining the advantages of solar.
“The energy our homes consume is one of the top three pollutants there is. When you stop buying all your power from the utility company, which is non-renewable, you’re saving a tremendous amount of pollutants from going into the atmosphere,” Munro said. “It’s like growing your own garden. You don’t have to ship for it, dig for it or go to war for it.”
And despite hesitations about prohibitive costs, he said government incentives make going solar affordable. Positive energy applies on behalf of interested homeowners for rebates, which can reduce the cost of installation by 70 percent in New York and 40 percent in Vermont.
“You’re producing free energy, basically, replacing the electric bill with a solar bill,” Munro said. The system, which costs about $20,000 after incentives, pays itself back after eight to 12 years; then, the panels provide another 15 to 30 years of free electricity.
“The long-term savings are fairly significant,” Munro said, comparing the set fee of solar to utility bills, which increase by an average of 3 percent every year.
“There’s so little else that you can do of a home improvement project that will pay you back. If you buy a TV or build a porch, they won’t pay back. They deteriorate and depreciate. This increases the value of a home.”
Other than solar installation, Positive Energy also does general contracting and crane work. Munro said Green Mountain Power promotes solar in Vermont, and New York utility companies are beginning to get on board.
“They understand, and they’re being supportive about it,” he said.