Pandemic shining a light on solar power at BE Solar
Renewable energy company BE Solar has experienced a bright side to the pandemic: an uptick in interest in solar energy.
“We are seeing a lot of people choosing to invest in their properties at this point,” said BE Solar director of development Stratton Hatfield.
“Pre pandemic people were using their extra money to go off on holidays or buy fancy things and they were not thinking about how they could make an investment in their property to reduce their operating costs.”
Now they are. And BE Solar is also seeing more people wanting to be independent from the traditional power grid.
“People are moving towards their own micro grids,” Mr Hatfield said.
He said people were not only installing solar panels but also batteries so that they could store more of the solar energy they generate and be more resilient in power outages.
And that spells good news for renewable energy in Bermuda. The Regulatory Authority’s Integrated Resource Plan, introduced in 2019, aims for Bermuda to be 80 per cent dependent on renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, by 2035.
“Right now there is about four per cent penetration of the market,” Mr Hatfield said. “We have a long way to go to achieve those targets. We need all hands on deck. We need every home and business to be considering this kind of investment if we are looking to reduce our energy costs and the cost of living in Bermuda in the long run.”
Since it was founded in 2010, BE Solar has installed more than 450 solar systems in Bermuda. They also sell products related to reducing energy costs such as timers for hot water heaters.
The St John’s Road company was initially started by Travis and Alan Burland and Stuart Kriendler. It was a reiteration of Bermuda Engineering Company Ltd started 87 years ago by the Burland’s ancestor Gordon Hamilton Burland.
“He was an engineer and he was basically a visionary for renewable energy,” Mr Hatfield said.
Mr Burland designed a wind turbine on Westwood Lane in Paget and also a solar hot water panel.
BE Solar has seen competitors come and go. There are currently five other solar energy companies in Bermuda. Mr Hatfield thought the secret to their staying power has been their commitment to quality and superior customer service.
“It is really important to us to live up to our reputation out there,” Mr Hatfield said. “I think that is a big reason for our success – the fact that we have stuck to quality and going above and beyond for our clients so they get the sort of service they are paying for.”
He thought it also helped that they have, in their opinion, the largest and most experienced team with 19 staff.
A big part of what they do is educating people, not just about solar power, but also on general household energy cost reduction.
“If you do nothing else, put a timer on your water heater,” Mr Hatfield said. “In Bermuda we pay some of the highest rates per kilowatt hour in the world. This is really impacting our cost of living and our ability to spend money on other important things like food and healthcare. In our company we are really focused on looking at energy holistically.”
Sometimes people are concerned that black solar panels on Bermuda’s roofs will change the traditional aesthetic.
“We look to design systems that are in discrete areas, away from main focal points on properties,” Mr Hatfield said. “We are also doing a lot of ground mounted systems where we are building concrete pads and walls and putting it on physical ground.”
Mr Hatfield said the Bermuda roof was designed purely for function.
“We had to build the roofs like that because we had to catch our rainwater,” he said. “We are at a point now where we have to catch Bermuda’s sun through our roofs. We have to catch Bermuda’s renewable energy and the only way for us to do this is to put panels on properties.”
And the company is working hard to make solar energy available to a wider economic demographic.
“We are focusing on accessibility and insuring that people can find ways to invest in solar,” he said. “It is an investment but it is something that will pay for itself and something that will reduce the long-term costs of any property, residential and commercial.”
BE Solar has a partnership with Clarien to offer low-interest loans to deploy solar power. They also have their own in-house payment plans.
“You are typically looking at a six to seven-year pay back on your investment, and you are looking at a warrantee period that is 30 years minimum, 25 depending on which brand of panels you go with,” Mr Hatfield said. “People spend money on all sorts of things, cars, and boats. Those don’t give you a return like this does.”