Teaming Heat Pumps with Rooftop Solar

August 19th, 2014 by christine

Trends are positive for solar electric power. Panel prices have been dropping for years, while panel output and efficiency has been rising. Mini-split heat pumps are also riding a wave: Every year, one of the big name-brand manufacturers leap-frogs the others, posting another jump in efficiency.

For ReVision Energy in Portland, Maine, those two positive trends are the key to a new business model. For several years, the company has been selling Mainers on the idea that the smart way to heat your house is to put solar panels on your roof, and mount a mini-split heat pump on your wall. Some houses only get panels, and some houses only get mini-splits; but as ReVision founder Fortunat Mueller said in February during a three-hour technical presentation at the Building Energy 14 conference in Boston, “To me, the easiest path to net zero—if there are easy paths to net zero—is an on-site, grid-tied solar electric system and some form of electric heat, either resistive or a heat pump. Heat pumps let you cool and heat efficiently with electricity, and electricity is easy to make off the roof.” The combination is enough to serve as a stand-alone heating system, if the house is well suited for the strategy.

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Local Businesses Show Support For Solar Energy

August 19th, 2014 by christine

nh-event-solarDespite ironically having to huddle in the shade to find relief from the heat, nearly half a dozen advocates for solar energy in New Hampshire gathered at Arms Park in Manchester on Tuesday as a united front to further the efforts of bringing the smart choice, renewable energy to the state.

“The thing I like the most about solar is that it really empowers the individual to take control over their energy sources and produce clean energy,” said Jonathan Gregory, a sale representative for ReVision Energy in Exeter. “Not everybody’s got a good wind site, the Granite State doesn’t have a lot of good wind sites. Ultimately, the sun does shine of every square foot of the state… Anybody can tap into it.”

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Coastal Cohousing Community Wins North American Copper in Architecture Award

August 19th, 2014 by christine

Salt Marsh Cohousing
The decision to use copper extensively on the Coastal Cohousing Community project was a carefully considered one, as low maintenance and long durability were high on the owners’ list of priorities.

The ease of adapting copper to a variety of conditions and configurations allowed the architects to design all eaves, rakes, dormers and chimneys entirely in copper. This was both performance-enhancing and an aesthetic benefit. The result is a contemporary interpretation of the classic New England building form.

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Another New Solar Electric Installation in Andover

August 19th, 2014 by christine

Revision Energy of Exeter installed another photovoltaic array in Andover last month.

The 18 panels should provide about 5.4 kilowatts of electricity over the course of a year, enough to power the entire household. Any excess power goes into the New Hampshire Electric Co-op’s grid for other NHEC customers to use. Revision recently announced a new program that lets qualified homeowners add solar with no money down.

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Solar Q&A: Dr. Ron Davis, Professor Emeritus at UMaine Climate Change Institute

August 4th, 2014 by ReVision Energy
Ron Davis Ground Mount Solar, Orono, ME

Dr. Ron Davis with ReVision Energy Master Electrician Ryan Herz in front of Davis’s ground-mounted solar electric array in Orono, Maine

Professor Ron Davis served at UMaine’s climate school for over 30 years before retiring, and in the decade since has improved his home and lifestyle to the point where he and his wife consume almost no fossil fuel.  He is also an avid bird photographer and took time from a recent trip to Nome, Alaska, to talk to us about his solar efforts.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get interested in solar?

I’ve been in Maine since the 1950s.  I taught at Colby for 10 years before moving up to UMaine at Orono to join the (then) just-starting Climate Change Institute. I worked there for over 30 years before retiring in 2003. My focus was on paleoecology, reconstructing past ecosystems by analyzing pollen and other remains in lake sediment and peat. These deposits offer us clues about the ecosystems and environments of the distant past and the living conditions of the ancient peoples. Of course, all this helps us to understand climate change and what is normal and what is outside the norm.

The understandings I acquired in my teaching and research have had an impact on how I act as an individual living on this planet. As a scientist, I believe in the scientific process and what scientists are saying about climate change, especially as I have evaluated the findings of climate scientists from my own critical point of view.  My wife, Lee, is also a scientist and shares this point of view.  Through that lens, we feel a powerful sense of responsibility in regards to our personal consumption of fossil fuels on this planet, and we set out to do something about it.

So what pushed you to go from solar enthusiast to solar customer?

When I retired in 2003 we invested some of our savings into a series of renewable energy projects. We started with a solar hot water system, which provides nearly all of our home’s domestic hot water use, continued with a geothermal heat pump for all our home’s heating and cooling, and finally added a large (11kw) ground-mount solar photovoltaic system for all of our household need for electricity. When we planned the size of the solar electric array, we included enough capacity to power an electric car for all of our local transportation.  We were finally able to buy that car last November, a Nissan LEAF, which we have named ‘SUNCAR.’

With the LEAF, we find we hardly ever need to use our regular car (a Toyota Prius) except for when we go on long trips. Overall, we have gone from quite a substantial carbon footprint for our household and local transportation to almost none.

How’s the solar life? Anything else on the horizon?

We are excited that our work has inspired others in our community and we are now working with a local (Orono-area) group to discuss progressive issues ranging from environmental justice to peace-making. We’ve opened up our home for others who wish to see how they can combine all of these technologies together to save money and greatly reduce their burden on this planet.