Mountain View Solar: Helping Homeowners with Solar PV and Battery Storage
Welcome to our Green Partners series, highlighting green contractors in the area that specialize in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects – partnering with the Montgomery County Green Bank and utilizing our partner financing programs.
In this edition, we talked with Mountain View Solar CEO Mike McKechnie and Danny Chiotos, Sales and Market Development Director.
What is something exciting you are working on now?
Mike McKechnie: We always have exciting ideas and opportunities at Mountain View Solar because we love the cutting-edge technology available. Lately, we have been working with cities and school systems on the usage of batteries. The automation and control systems that come with linking battery storage and solar generation are very exciting. Specifically, controlling the circuits or loads that go with each battery is something we are working on now so that we can design and engineer a system that can reduce the number of batteries you need by taking advantage of these cutting-edge control systems.
Why did you choose to partner with the Montgomery County Green Bank as an authorized contractor with their Clean Energy Advantage program?
Danny Chiotos: We chose to partner with the Montgomery County Green Bank because we have a strong belief in doing things the right way. Not only doing every installation the right way from a technical and equipment-based point of view, but from a societal point of view, with the broader picture in mind through solar.
Making solar accessible to everyone along race, income and other demographics is something we think Green Banks are key for. Making solar accessible financing solutions and other creative and supportive solutions that do not always get the space and time in the private world, means Green Banks can help with innovative models in both traditional financing but also in reaching out to underserved communities. We particularly believe that there is a big market in Western Montgomery County now that financing is accessible.
How did you find out about the Montgomery County Green Bank’s Clean Energy Advantage program and how did it fit in to your needs for financing your projects?
DC: I had been following the development of the MC Green Bank and I was pleased to see more funds directed toward financing clean energy projects. For projects I am working on, the Green Bank’s option of having two separate loan terms was important. The current renewable energy federal tax credit is very helpful to make the project affordable, but it does not arrive until the calendar year after the project is installed. The Green Bank offered a short-term loan to cover the amount of the tax credit and a second, longer term loan for the rest of the funds needed.
What are the top reasons your customers want renewable energy?
MM: We have seen the reason why customers want renewable energy changing over the last 11 or 12 years. Originally it was all about wanting tax credits and the potential to save money but more recently we have seen a push of that interest, along with an interest in limiting a household’s impact on the environment come into the decision-making process.
Mostly we hear from people that it is a good investment, it is great for the planet and both of those are good; whichever one drives you towards purchasing solar. If it is both reasons, it is a double bonus!
What do customers reflect on as most surprising or most rewarding when their project is completed?
DC: The most common answer I hear to that is not necessarily surprise that it works, but satisfaction that it works. Your electric bill can be as low as five to ten dollars a month if you are offsetting a hundred percent of your energy costs with solar.
The other area of excitement is when customers watch their solar generation. A fun thing that people enjoy is to open the Solar Edge monitoring app and track the details of their completed project.
What are the key decisions your customers have to make to move a project forward?
MM: A long time ago we were the only company in the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia and other places, and we have been able to see the key decisions of customers grow with us through that time frame. We see a mix of customers that understand the incentives and/or had solar on their previous home and would like to have it installed again. We are seeing a lot more knowledgeable questions, such as asking about the efficiency of our panels, warranties on the panels and inverters, our workmanship warranty, along with questions on how long our company has been around. They are extremely well-educated and know what to look for as solar has become more prolific, but the key decision is the highest value for the cost.
How do you promote the Montgomery County Green Bank’s Clean Energy Advantage program as a resource for your customers?
DC: The financing options that the Green Bank has set up through the Clean Energy Advantage program will be a key inclusion in our Montgomery County proposals. Starting this Spring, every Montgomery County proposal that we send out the door will include the Clean Energy Advantage financing options.
Additionally, we have engaged several new residential Solar PV Project Developers who live in Frederick, including a licensed electrician who is going to be our point person on developing these projects.