ReVision Energy to Sponsor Leadership Seacoast

December 16th, 2014 by christine

Leadership Seacoast LogoLeadership Seacoast, an organization committed to developing informed and active community leaders, announced today that ReVision Energy has signed on as the first corporate sponsor for the 2015 program year, contributing $2,000 to support programming costs of the issues-focused curriculum.

“ReVision Energy is proud to once again support Leadership Seacoast,” said Dan Clapp, Revision New Hampshire Branch Manager. “Like Leadership Seacoast, ReVision Energy is committed to the continued growth and development of the local economy and we believe strongly in the value of community.”

Full article is available here:

Retired Mill Worker Invests Solar to Further Self-Sufficiency

December 15th, 2014 by Jen Albee
Bob & Bonnie Morrison of Norridgewock Go Solar

Bob and Bonnie Morrison stand in front of their pole-mount solar electric array by their home in Norridgewock, Maine

For Bob Morrison of Norridgewock, solar was something he’d dreamed of for decades. Upon retiring in 2011 after working for nearly thirty years at the Sappi Fine Paper Mill in Skowhegan, he decided to take self-sufficiency to a new level. In addition to having an enviable garden, various apple trees and a knack for canning and freezing, Bob and his wife Bonnie can now harvest sunshine for their energy needs.

Their first step toward an energy-smart home was to install a TED (The Energy Detective), a small monitoring device that can tell homeowners how much power is being used and where. With the help of this tool, the Morrisons cut their energy use in half from roughly 600 kilowatt hours a month to just over 300. “We consolidated our freezers, put appliances on timers, and cut back on using the dryer – we use the clothesline whenever we can,” says Bob. “I must look at the TED twenty times a day.”

Knowing that the costs of solar had come down substantially in recent years, Bob did some online research and was soon in touch with John Luft from ReVision’s Liberty branch. The reduction in their electric usage meant that Bob and Bonnie’s first solar array – a 7 kilowatt rooftop system featuring twenty-six USA-made solar panels installed in winter of 2013 – not only covered their household electric usage, but also allowed them to power their Chevy Volt using solar energy.

“I was able to get the $2,000 (Efficiency Maine) rebate before the program expired, so my first installation cost roughly $13,500 after the rebate and federal tax credit,” says Bob. After combining his CMP savings from solar with the gasoline saved with their electric car, Bob figures his first solar installation will pay for itself in roughly six and a half years. “I consider myself an investor – I’ve invested in stocks and now I’ve invested in solar.”

Expanding Solar to Heat and Cool

Norridgewock, ME Solar - Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF

This pole-mounted solar electric array will provide plenty of electricity to power these two electric cars, the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF

ReVision is currently working with Bob and Bonnie to install two pole-mounted arrays for another 7.2 kilowatts of solar capacity. In addition to protecting themselves against anticipated CMP rate hikes in early 2015, Bob and Bonnie will now have homegrown kilowatt hours to power their mini-split heat pump and heat pump water heater, as well as their second vehicle, a Nissan LEAF, further reducing their need to purchase fossil fuels for their vehicles or their home. As Bob says, “Whether or not you believe in climate change, why defile the only planet you can live on?”

And though natural gas lines go right by their house, the Morrisons decided not to hook up, citing volatile and uncontrollable costs. “Natural gas appears cheap now, but it won’t be for long,” says Bob. “And as long as the sun comes out, we’ll have solar energy right here.”

Now every time the sun shines, the Morrisons can take heart that regardless of what happens to fuel and electric prices, they’ve locked in costs for years to come. “I don’t have a fuel bill,” says Bob, “not for my house or my cars. I’m a Mainer – I like to be self-sufficient. For me, solar is a no brainer – I only wish I could have done it sooner.”

South Berwick Library Goes Solar!

November 25th, 2014 by Fred Greenhalgh

South Berwick is the latest Maine municipality we’ve had the pleasure to help go solar – joining a growing list of forward-thinking towns and cities (including Eliot, ME, York, ME Durham, NH, Freeport, ME, Windham, ME, Lincolnville, ME, Dayton, ME, Gorham, ME… and many others). Check out our website’s photo gallery for photos of more municipalities that have made solar investments.

Faced with the expiration of an ARRA-era grant, South Berwick needed solar installed… and fast! ReVision Energy was able to assist, designing, procuring, and installing a 38.88kw American-made Suniva solar energy array in under 3 months. This gorgeous grid-tied photovoltaic array will generate over 46,000 kWh/yr of clean electricity for 25+ years.

Bill Rogers of the Coruway Film Institute (who happens to live across the street from the library) shot this fun, upbeat video about the project, with interview with the Town Manager, Perry Ellsworth and Library Director, Karen Eger. The South Berwick Library’s transformation from an old church to a modern, energy efficient solar-powered learning center is complete! It will serve not only as a practical solar installation, but as an inspiration in the community. We were proud to be part of this fantastic project.

The Myth of Cheap Natural Gas

November 18th, 2014 by Fred Greenhalgh
Maine Solar Install Better than Natural Gas

This solar array will produce pollution-free electricity for 50 years, with minimal maintenance and freedom from price hikes.

Expanding New England’s natural gas infrastructure has been hailed as a panacea to our energy woes. We question whether New England’s energy problems are so easily solved. It is incredibly expensive (upwards of $1 million/mile) to build out natural gas infrastructure, and the amount of capacity required to make a substantial impact is well beyond what the private market will support. Many politicians are suggesting, instead, that the cost to build out gas infrastructure be passed on to electric ratepayers, with the idea that, long-term, the costs would be recouped through the neutralization of winter price spikes.

We – and we are not alone in this – find this logic flawed, and unlikely to actually resolve the long-term energy problems of Northern New England. In our opinion, it is inequitable to pass the cost of pipeline expansion (most of which will not even be in the state of Maine, and instead, benefit Massachusetts power generators) onto the people of Maine and New Hampshire, who are already contending with high costs of electricity.

Instead, we should accept the reality of our geography, and make infrastructure improvements that offset load and generate clean energy to provide lasting long-term savings and protect our environment. We need only look to our use of heating oil to see an example of how destructive it can be when we are dependent on a single energy source. While natural gas looks good today, its long-term availability, price and environmental record is highly suspect.

Yet, the sun continues to rise every morning without fail.

Supply and Demand

ReVision Energy’s phone has been ringing constantly over the last few weeks as news spreads about coming electricity price hikes in the Northeast – Unitil predicts a near doubling of the standard offer rate, as does Liberty Utilities and the New Hampshire Electric Co-op (PSNH’s customers are somewhat insulated from the hikes due to their ability to sell power from their aging coal power plants during winter months, but that is another story).

CMP business customers in Maine will seem similar price shocks, though residential consumers will be largely insulated from the price increases until March, when the standard offer rate is renegotiated. For affected utilities, a typical home consuming 500 kilowatt-hours per month will see an increase in the order of $37 per month (is it ironic that the Maine solar rebate was deemed “too expensive” when it would add $1 per year to a typical electric bills? Ah, but we digress).

To blame for these winter blues is competition between the power and heating sectors for natural gas. While natural gas is plentiful down in Pennsylvania (in fact reaching record supplies in October – see EIA), it becomes in short supply when moving through the distribution system that gets it up to Northern New England. By the time gas gets here, it is in high demand and soars in cost, as heating users (who have priority over supply) compete with electric generators for the fuel. In the depths of winter, gas is in such short supply that electric generators need to instead source significantly more expensive fuels such as petroleum and coal, leading to these painful winter price spikes.

Winter 2013 - high cost of natural gas
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ReVision Hits the Cover of the Solar Pro!

November 13th, 2014 by Fred Greenhalgh

Solar Pro Magazine Feature Nov Dec 2014

ReVisionista Cal Truman featured on the cover of Solar Pro magazine, working on an installation for Riverview Farm in Hampton, NH

Well, we dreamt about it, we sung about it, and now… it’s happened!  ReVision Energy is featured on the cover of Nov/Dec 2014 Solar Pro magazine!

The feature article, penned by company owner and resident engineer Fortunat Mueller (and North Yarmouth Fire Department Captain), is “Pitched Roof Array Layout for Fire Code Compliance,” a technical article geared towards solar installers who are still trying to digest design implications of new fire code regulations (IFC2012 and NFPA1 2012).

The short of it – new fire codes require 3′ egress pathways for firefighters to be available on south-facing roofs, making it generally impossible to accept a solar design where an entire roof is covered with solar panels.

For example:

Solar PV implications NFC2012 codes

However, the codes are not universally enforced across the country (or even within individual states) so the way that solar installers react to the new codes varies market-to-market.

The Impact of Codes on Solar Adoption

Due to the way these codes may negatively affect the viability of rooftop solar for the homeowner, many in the industry have testified against the restrictions, such as Dan Yechout, the sales director at Namasté Solar, who stated that a strict enforcement of the IFC could result in a 50% reduction in PV adoption in the city [of Boulder, CO].  Per Mueller’s article, “the fire code requirements reduced array capacity by anywhere from 15% to 37% for typical roof configurations.”

However, not all is lost, and Mueller goes on to describe three different strategies solar integrators can employ to ensure their solar array designs are code-compliant, while also financially viable and productive for the customer.  They are to: 1) “harmonize [all] your company’s internal design standards with the fire code,” 2) “design systems on a case-by-case basis to the spirit of the fire code”, and to 3) “proactively engage code enforcement and fire department officials and develop jurisdiction-specific requirements for compliance.”

ReVision’s NH-based operations manager James Hasselbeck is quoted as he describes our approach, the “middle path.”  Since the IFC2012 and NFPA1 2012 are not universally enforced across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts, we instead choose to train our solar design specialists about the codes and also the acceptable exclusions.  Code officers can make exceptions to strict interpretations on the code based on firm design logic.  Rather than using boilerplate designs, or trying to skirt the codes, ReVision trains our staff to understand the reasoning behind fire codes, the process used by firefighters in firefighting, and the numerous ways of maintaining safety in fire standards by employing alternate and more creative solar array designs.  This is more tedious, and technical, than the standards to which many solar designers are trained, but it allows our projects to remain consistent safe and within the spirit of the code while also maximizing the productive roofspace available to our customers.

Solar is maturing and ‘soft costs’ go up as codes become more restrictive (such as NEC2014’s requirement for rapid disconnects in GTPV systems), however, this is also good news – solar PV arrays are becoming more mainstream and consistent codes and safer system designs are better for everyone.  ReVision continues to offer free training for fire departments who wish to better understand solar arrays, and we’d be happy to point code officers to appropriate resources for better understanding the codes that apply to photovoltaic installations.

Wanna read more?  Sure thing – download the PDF from our website.

And on the fun side of things…

And if music videos are more your style, here is our anthem to the trade magazine Solar Pro, which caught their attention on Twitter and became a musical sensation throughout the US solar industry:

And to prove his cred… Fortunat Mueller not only battles fossil fuels, he also battles blazes as Fire Captain at the North Yarmouth Fire Department:

Fortunat Mueller battling fire