Creating Affordable Solar Systems: Sustainability Entrepreneur Cynthia Redwine
May 02, 2014 11:55AM
Sustainability entrepreneur Cynthia Redwine has long felt the need to make the world a better place. From 2002-2005 she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small, indigenous community in Panama leading a community group through the process of acquiring clean, sustainable energy through solar panels to replace the diesel-powered generator that they could afford to run only a couple hours a day. Later she worked for the American Lung Association on environmental public health. Thereafter, she attended a graduate business program at Wake Forest University to further her professional interest in sustainable development.
Today she owns the renewable energy company RED Group (Renewable Energy Design Group) with the mission of supporting healthy and sustainable communities by providing solar energy systems for homeowners, farmers, businesses and nonprofits. Serving customers in North Carolina and the southeast, RED Group protects customers against the rising costs of conventional electricity by sourcing, designing and installing on- and off-grid solar energy systems that maximize production and returns on clients’ investments.
“RED Group offers turnkey solar energy solutions, acting as a trusted advisor guiding clients through the process of understanding solar technology, selecting and procuring equipment, customizing design, installing systems and ensuring proper permitting, interconnection and operation. We’re a NABCEP-certified solar installer, licensed electrical firm and licensed general contractor in NC and 7 other southeastern US states. We specialize in residential and small commercial solar design and installation and can help clients with other renewable energy technologies such as wind power,” said Redwine.
RED Group operates as an LC3, or low-profit limited liability company, which is a business organization committed to providing a social benefit in addition to making profits.
“RED Group chose this organizational structure to formalize our commitment to promoting renewable energy and offering social benefit to the communities in which we work, including: renewable energy education and advocacy for local sustainability, environmental stewardship for a cleaner and healthier future, sustainable energy options supporting profitable agriculture and community economic development for job creation and community vitality,” stated Redwine.
In addition, RED Group works with Solarize Charlotte - a coalition effort made up of community groups and non-profit allies that make rooftop solar energy affordable for Charlotte area residents, with discounts of up to 75% available.
Redwine says going solar is for everyone and her company has served young professional couples, retirees, dual-income suburban households and rural residents. Because the costs of solar have plummeted in recent years due to the reduced costs of solar panels and components, it is affordable especially when considering the rebates, incentives and tax credits available.
“North Carolina and the US government support this industry with tax incentives that reduce system costs. Because solar is a boon to the national and local economy, generating companies and jobs like mine as well spurring investments and increasing real estate values, the Department of Energy has endorsed solarize programs to further promote this technology. Programs like those successful in Durham and Asheville further drive down costs through group purchases, which results in reduced marketing and procurement costs of installation companies that are passed along to customers. With these programs and the tax incentives, people can afford solar, which is available at up to 75% below retail cost,” Redwine said.
A return on the investment can be seen fairly quickly, too. While every home is different and everyone’s energy use and efficiency practices are different, Redwine’s clients often enjoy more than a 15% return on their solar investment. The systems pay for themselves in 3-10 years and savings continue to accrue over the 25-year warranted life of the systems.
Another added benefit is net metering - a program by which utilities give renewable energy clients full, fair credit on their utility bills for the excess clean power they deliver to the grid. Net metering makes solar an even more attractive investment, increasing the net present value of solar customers’ cash flow by providing them with a full, fair credit for their clean power that’s shared with the grid. This program translates benefits from solar customers into savings for all energy customers. Redwine believes North Carolina is a great place to use solar technology. While Germany leads the world in solar production, North Carolina sunshine provides twice the sun energy potential.
“Now is a great time to go solar because the technology has proven itself to be reliable and sustainable over decades of use and has now come down in price so much that it’s a viable option for any homeowner. Thirty-five percent state and 30% federal tax credits, affordable financing options and certified installers like RED Group ensure homeowners that solar is a smart way to invest in a sustainable energy future for their families and communities,” concluded Redwine.
For information visit RedGroupNC.com or call 336-671-1068.