As part of our Member Engagement Guidebook outlines ways that member businesses can take targeted action on climate change through sustainability, political advocacy, and community building. Boston Solar chose to participate in a Member Interview, an engagement option that allows members to share their thoughts and experiences regarding climate action to enhance the community’s overall perspective.
Member Interview: Boston Solar
“I am excited to be part of a group that advocates for policy changes, a whole group of people that wants to shift Massachusetts towards a renewable energy future, that is awesome! It is great to meet other people in business that have the same values as you do.”
Dana Goodman (DG), Community Programs Specialist at Boston Solar, participated in a Member Interview with CABA, an engagement option that allows members to share their thoughts and experiences regarding climate action to enhance the community’s overall perspective. Dana shared how Boston Solar is engaging in sustainable practices and educating communities about the benefits of solar, contributing locally in the “fight against climate change.”
Kristin Kelleher (KK), Programs Director at CABA: Tell us about yourself; what you do for Boston Solar and how you came to work there.
DG: I am the Community Programs Specialist. I create partnerships within the communities that we serve. These partnerships are between Boston Solar, local nonprofits, and businesses. I connect with customers by participating in community events (town-day, farmer’s markets). I serve as an advocate and an advisor for solarize programs. We promote solarize programs in the towns that we serve. Part of my job is to identify a solar coach [in each town] and [provide] advice. We [Boston Solar] will even go so far as to help them [solarize coaches] write a proposal for the town.
KK: Can you tell me a little more about your work with solarize campaigns?
DG: [Solarize is] a community purchasing model for going solar run by MassCEC. A town will have to submit a proposal for a marketing grant. They put out an RFP [request for proposals] for solar companies to submit bids. It is a group purchasing model, the more people that purchase solar systems through that program the cheaper the solar panels will get. You use the power of group purchasing to drive down the coast of going solar, it drives down customer acquisition costs for the installer. We’ve done Solarize Mass Natick, which was the most successful solarize program to date in terms of installed capacity.
I try to identify a person that is called a “solar coach.” It is so important to get a good group of people involved [in each community] in the first place because that is where the original proposal comes from…solarize requires a volunteer group to write the proposal [for each town] that is submitted to the MassCEC to get the solarized grant.
KK: So, you are starting to identify potential leaders before a campaign begins?
DG: Yes, that is part of what I do. I go out into the community and identifying those leaders and then [serve] a resource for them (helping them with information, solar training, understanding how solar works, how to get people excited and involved.) Boston Solar will help them [the solarize leaders] to write the proposal for MassCEC. We [at Boston Solar] know how complicated it is to write a marketing proposal so you [have a chance to] win.
KK: Can you describe is simple terms what exact Boston Solar does?
DG: It is very simple. We are a residential and commercial installation company. Everyone that does any kind of work on a Boston Solar job is a Boston Solar employee. We don’t subcontract anything out. We put solar on homes, businesses and on non-profits.
KK: Can you tell me more about Boston Solar?
DG: Boston Solar has been around since 2011 and it was founded by our current CEO, Daniel Mello Guimaraes and Romaine Strecker. They started the company together.
KK: Could you talk a little bit about how Boston Solar helps in the fight against Climate Change?
DG: I love the fact that I work for a solar company. When people ask me what I do I say, “I am a solar superhero. I’m fighting climate change every day.” It is simple. When you go solar you are automatically fighting against climate change because you are reducing the amount of pollution that is in the air. That [choice] directly goes towards cutting fossil fuel emissions. We [at Boston Solar] advocate for and provide consultation services for communities that want to do the solarize program. By doing the solarize program we are fighting against climate change in a much bigger way by trying to get as many people together in a community to go solar and [organizing a group that] support[s] each other…on an ideological level.
We also do free education[al] solar workshops. We [at Boston Solar] will provide free solar education to anyone that registers and then [we] give them an opportunity to advocate for solar on their own. We reward them through a referral program if they send customers to us. We also put out solar blog education posts. Solar education is a huge part of our mission this year. I think the biggest barrier to people going solar [is] just lack of knowledge and fear.
KK: How do you think Boston Solar has been received by customers, other businesses, and the community in general?
DG: As far as our customers go and the community goes in general, I’d say we are having a fantastic reception. We have stellar reviews across the board of any review site you could possibly think of…and by stellar I really mean stellar. We have 4.9/5 stars on Google with over 180 reviews. Not only are we harvesting energy from the giant star that powers our solar system, but we are putting up stars. If you go online and look us up, you will see on Angie’s List, on Facebook, on Google, [and] on solarreview.com, you will see we have a great reputation, and I am very proud to speak about that.
KK: Do you find that most people know about the benefits of solar?
DG:The amount of people who understand solar technology and who understand the incentives that go along with solar is still pretty low. It is higher than it was a few years ago when I started in the industry. Now, when I am at a trade show I would say that 40% of people really know about solar and are aware of what is going on in the industry. There is still a tremendous amount of mystery around the incentives…I do understand that because … they are changing now… but there is a perception that they keep changing. In general I would say that more people are getting comfortable with the idea of solar. But, I think there is a lack in solar education and in awareness about the programs that are available, the incentives that are available, and how positive solar is.
KK: Since we are changing from the SREC to the SMART program, how do you see that affecting Boston Solar?
DG: We recognize that SREC was really popular, but we are also excited for SMART. You can’t control the changes that are happening, so we are ready to adapt. SMART is going to require even more education.
SMART is going to result in a monthly check and more immediate rewards than SREC (SREC being quarterly or lump sum yearly). I think that SMART will have a good impact on the community because people will see immediate results. The SMART program is very similar to the feed-in tariff program that exists in Rhode Island. I’ve seen it work well [in Rhode Island], people can see the immediate impact of going solar.
KK: Have you engaged with the political process at all in regard to solar and other energy policies, if so, what has that been like?
DG: As a company, we have not. Individual employees do contribute to volunteer and lobby efforts. I attended the Valentine’s Day Event at the State House to give big valentines to the Governor that said, “Please break up with fracked gas and fossil fuels.” Boston Solar has not gotten involved specific efforts, but individual employees are involved in the political process.
KK: Have you integrated any sustainability practices into your business in general?
DG: Yes, we use basic best practices, like recycling. We have some hybrid fleet vehicles that we use and fuel efficient vehicles. If for some reason a [solar] panel breaks, we will replace that panel and recycle it.
KK: What advice do you have for businesses looking to engage more deeply with the community?
DG: I would say, do it as soon as possible! Don’t wait to get engaged with your community, don’t wait to show your community that you care about them. Business is about people. Go out into your community with your best intentions to engage them in your business and show them what you can do for them as well as what they can do for you.
KK: What is one action you are excited to take with CABA?
DG: I am definitely excited about the solar education piece, getting to talk to other businesses who care about climate action, teaching them about solar and solarize, how that works and how as a partner business they can contribute to that. I am also excited to be part of a group that advocates for policy changes, a whole group of people that want to shift Massachusetts towards a renewable energy future, that is awesome! It is great to meet other people in business that have the same values as you do.
KK: What is one quirky fact about Boston Solar?
DG: We are diverse in a really cool way. Our co-founders are both from other countries. Daniel is from Brazil. Romaine is from France. Our Marketing Director, Natalie lived in Spain. Natalie and I both studied abroad with NYU. She went to Spain and I went to Italy. Our Community Programs and Outreach Manager is a first-generation Greek- American. We have a very international and eclectic team.
Interested in sharing your businesses story with the CABA community? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to set up a member interview!