Island Solar Energy Becoming More Affordable Than Ever

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Caribbean Solar Company workers install energy saving solar panels on the roof to help cut the cost of the homeowner’s power bills.

Workers complete the installation of solar panels on the rooftop of Half Moon House in Reef Bay, above.

It’s no secret that solar energy can reduce, or even eliminate, your power bill. But buying into solar energy has long been expensive and out of reach for typical St. John locals. All that is changing now thanks to decreasing prices and programs like Caribbean Solar Company’s financing options, which can extend up to $65,000 in loans to customers.

Caribbean Solar Company owners Kevin Schnell and Maya Matthews-Sterling sought out the residential financing options through their manufacturer, Solar World.

“We’ve been working at getting residential financing options for about a year,” said Schnell. “Solar World actually vetted a number of companies and chose one for us to work with. Through this partnership, we’re able to offer unsecured loans up to $40,000 with a 10-year term at 6.99 percent, and we can also do an additional $25,000 no-interest no-payment loan, which is like a bridge loan customers can use toward their federal income tax credit.”

As if financing wasn’t enough of an incentive to make the move to solar, the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s net metering program allows customers to borrow against excess energy they’ve generated and fed back into the grid, meaning those high power bills can all but disappear.

Solar panels were installed on the roof of the carport at Amarillo Villa, above.

“Essentially what you’re doing is generating power during the day which is utilized immediately in your home before it’s ever delivered to the grid, and if the house doesn’t need some of the energy that’s being produced, it’s delivered back to WAPA,” explained Schnell. “The meter keeps track of those credits, and once the sun goes down and you start using power from WAPA, you’re using the credits that you generated during the day. You’re essentially using WAPA’s grid as storage.”

Credits are rolled over month to month before being dissolved and reset at the beginning of each year.
Setting up net metering through WAPA and applying with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources for a permit to install solar panels — the thought of which might be enough to deter some residents from going the solar route — is handled entirely by Caribbean Solar Company, ensuring a relatively painless process for customers.

“We’re the agent for the customer throughout the entire process,” said Schnell. “We make it really easy for everyone to navigate through. We don’t have the customer do any of the grunt work.”

Once the system is in place, thoughts then turn to maintaining the solar panels. Caribbean Solar Company customers don’t have to think twice about keeping their system up and running thanks to a three-year workmanship warranty which ensures the solar panels are working correctly, and most importantly, that the customer’s net metering account with WAPA is working correctly.

Thanks to its notoriously high power rates and abundance of sunshine, the Virgin Islands is the perfect place to make the switch to solar.

“A lot of people here refer to their WAPA payment as a second mortgage,” said Schnell. “What we’re doing is essentially reducing or eliminating your power bill while making an impact on our dependency on fossil fuels. It’s not only great for the homeowner to reduce costs, but it’s good for the environment as well.”
To learn more about Caribbean Solar Company, visit www.caribbeansolarcompany.com.