A Montreal company that makes solar canopies plans to open a Burlington office with employees hired in Vermont.
The 8-year-old iSun Energy chose Burlington over Plattsburgh, New York, and Boston because the state promotes renewable energy and its politicians are accessible and collaborative, said CEO Sass Peress.
“We learned that Vermont is a very environmentally friendly state with pro-renewable-energy policies and electric vehicle policies,” Peress said. An Energy Action Network report last year found that 20 percent of Vermont’s energy use came from renewable sources, and electric vehicle ownership in Vermont doubled in 2017, to more than 2,300 vehicles.
iSun, a division of Renewz Sustainable Solutions Inc., makes solar-panel-covered canopies that are used as carports or gazebos. They are designed to provide energy to attached homes or commercial buildings. iSun has installed about a dozen of the canopies so far, about half in the U.S. and half in Canada, Peress said. U.S. customers include the city of Lansing, Mich.; Admiralty Inn Hotel in Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Duke Energy, he said. Peress said those were pilot projects and the company expects strong commercial sales in the coming year. The canopies are assembled in Canada using U.S.-made solar panels.
“Hopefully the federal government someday re-establishes renewable energy-friendly policies, and we believe that will happen eventually,” Peress said. “In the meantime, the states are doing a great job.”
Peress talked with officials at several Vermont agencies before making his decision, said Tim Tierney, who works in business recruitment at the state Department of Economic Development.
“He did his homework,” Tierney said. “He went to a lot of renewable energy events, and he learned the ecosystem of Vermont.”
The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce has a Vermont-Quebec initiative focused on drawing more businesses looking for ways to expand beyond Quebec, Vermont’s largest trading partner. The Chamber introduced Peress to state officials, as well as lawyers, bankers and others that could ease the move.
“It’s a big move for companies to establish a presence in the US,” said Tom Torti, president and CEO. “Sometimes we lose sight of the difficulties.”
It was some of those difficulties that led iSun to create a U.S. office.
“We actually had a very bad experience in 2017 trying to gain a piece of business with the State Department, and that was part of what convinced us that it made sense eventually for us to establish a location in the U.S.,” he said.
Peress met Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn at a conference in July in Stowe.
“It was a great atmosphere; collaboration was the theme,” he said. “That is why we established in Vermont.”