Archive for December, 2010

Solar Collectors in Snow – Leave them alone!

Thursday, December 30th, 2010
Solar Collectors Melt off snow

Despite over 18″ of snow landing just the day before, a little bit of sunshine melts the snow off our Portland office’s solar collectors just fine.

To follow up our report a few weeks ago that solar hot water collectors still generate heat – even when buried by snow – we’d like to remind people that even after serious snow storms you don’t need to worry about getting the snow off your panels.

While it’s true that for short periods of time the snow may reduce your solar gain, the risk of damaging panels, and more seriously, yourself, while scrambling around on your roof far outweighs a minimal boost in performance.

Generally speaking, if there’s not enough sun to melt off the snow, there’s not enough sun to harvest for hot water or electricity.

Since your solar panels are conveniently pointed towards the sun and facing south, on the next sunny day after a snow storm the sun should do its job and melt off the snow (which will tend to slide off anyways), allowing your system to get back to making hot water or electricity!

Professionals Key to Success with Renewable Energy Projects

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

The Bangor Daily News and several local weekly papers carried a scathing story this week on a set of poorly performing renewable energy systems installed on behalf of the Maine State Housing Authority with funds from a federal DHHS grant.

John Christie reports:

To help poor families save on electricity and heating oil, MSHA contracted with a vendor to install solar panels to heat water at 10 homes from Belgrade to Rockland. The names of the recipients are not revealed by MSHA because most are receiving public assistance…

Of the 10, the report found six were poorly installed, including one where the solar panels were put in upside down, four where the panels were not oriented properly toward the sun, and one where trees blocked the panels…

The contractor, now out of business, had been reliable on previous projects, [Dale McCormick, the director of MSHA] said, but in this case “he got overextended.”

Read the rest of the article here

ReVision Energy joins the group of citizens surprised and disappointed to learn that solar collectors were installed irresponsibly, perhaps fraudulently.

We would further like to remind people that the article points out problems with an incompetent (and now defunct) contractor, not a problem with the fundamental technology of solar hot water.

Professional Solar Hot Water

Residential solar hot water systems are an established, proven technology that when designed and installed by skilled professionals can save a household more than 300 gallons of oil per year while eliminating more than 5,000 lbs. of CO2 emissions.

With 450,000 Maine homes heated with oil, and unnecessarily burning millions of gallons of oil to make domestic hot water when the sun is shining, it is imperative that the state continue to support the installation of high quality solar hot water systems.

The Steps to a Professional Solar Hot Water Installation

Solar Hot Water System Schematic

Above is an example system design for a solar hot water system integrated with a domestic oil boiler.

To ensure that a solar hot water system will deliver maximum possible energy savings, the process begins with a rigorous site evaluation, then moves to custom system design, which is then followed by professional installation by a team of highly trained, certified solar technicians.

Critical aspects of the site evaluation include a compass reading of roof orientation (acceptable range is 155 to 245 degrees magnetic), an analysis of annual shading where the collectors will be mounted, and an assessment of the existing heating system to determine solar compatibility.

One key minimum requirement of any solar installation in Maine is that the collector location have an unshaded solar window of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. year round to justify a system investment.

If the solar window is occluded by shade from trees or other nearby objects, it should be recommended that the homeowner cut trees or find a new location for collector placement. When there is not a viable location on the property, it is the solar contractor’s responsibility to inform the client that solar is not a good option.

Track Record

Since the last of MSHA’s systems were installed in 2008, ReVision Energy have installed more than 2,000 high quality solar energy systems throughout Maine and New Hampshire. We welcome a rigorous assessment of these installations to prove that when done correctly, solar hot water is a cost-effective remedy to reduce fossil fuel energy consumption and the associated emissions. We have a large stable of enthusiastic customer testimonials lauding the energy savings and fossil fuel reductions they experience as a result of their systems.

We are also be willing to assess the systems that were installed for MSHA and develop a project proposal to fix the systems that are broken and decommission the systems that were installed in shade.

Why Solar Energy Systems Are Critical to Our Renewable Energy Future

On a per capita basis, Maine is the most oil dependent state in the nation, and we have the highest CO2 emissions in New England (despite our pristine environmental reputation).

Every year, we export $2 billion out of our state economy to support our liquid fossil fuel habit. These fundamental structural problems, which leave Mainers dangerously exposed to oil price volatility and supply disruptions, deserve every effective remedy that the citizenry and its government can apply.

Perhaps counter intuitively, Maine has a robust solar energy resource (best in New England and better than half the U.S.) that can be effectively harnessed to reduce fuel consumption.

As John Christie candidly reports, these technologies can be poorly installed, as can any other piece of equipment or home improvement. However, when designed and installed by professionals solar is a cost-effective, greenhouse-gas reducing technology that helps make Mainers more energy secure. That is a future we can all look forward to.

York County Shelters Joins Green Alliance

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
York Country Shelter Programs - Shaker Hill, Alfred, Maine

The York County Shelters, a new member of the Green Alliance, was the first homeless shelter in Maine to use solar energy and a wood boiler to save on energy costs.

ReVision Energy is happy to welcome York County Shelters as they join the Green Alliance through a new non-profit scholarship fund.

The fund pays for 100% of the membership dues for the green business organization, recognizing the value that nonprofits bring to the community.

Jim Cavan writes:

The YCSP became the first recipient of the GA’s newly-launched Sustainable Commerce Scholarship. [Green Alliance director Sarah] Brown says the goal of the new program will be to raise money from existing Business Partners and community members in order to support local non-profits on the scholarship.

“It’s another way for us to give back, and we hope to be able to do it on a fairly regular basis,” says Brown. “We know there are a lot of incredible organizations out there who would be wonderful additions to our organization, so hopefully this provides a way to make that happen.”

Initially launched in 1980 as the York County Alcoholism Shelter, the YCSP has since grown to include a five-building, 74 bed main campus in Alfred, which houses both families and individuals and features a bakery, barn-set gymnasium, classroom and dining commons. Additionally, the main campus provides services ranging from family counseling to substance abuse programs and vocational training, helping hundreds of people every year in their often arduous transitions from homelessness to self sufficiency.

Additionally, the group owns over 30 transitional housing units throughout the York County region, as well as an additional 5 homes rendered green – EnergyStar appliances, solar panels and efficient insulation being just a few of the features – before being offered to qualifying families and individuals.

Leading the “green” efforts of the York County Shelters is a trio of renewable energy systems installed by ReVision Energy on their main building on Shaker Hill, Alfred: a robust solar hot water system, 4kw of solar electric panels, and a wood boiler.

The shelter made news by being the first shelter in Maine to integrate the cost of renewable energy systems into its building designs. The additional upfront costs are justified as these systems will offer long term savings on their energy usage while at the same time offsetting a thousands of pounds of c02 emissions each year.

In a 2009 Press Herald article David Beseda, the shelter’s housing director said “‘We wanted to make this building sustainable for decades to come. We can keep people in housing for a longer term by making it more affordable.”

We’re excited to see the shelter continuing to grow, and support them in their important work of empowering the homeless in Southern Maine.

See More Photos in Our Schools and Nonprofits Solar Photo Gallery:

Buried in the Snow and Making Heat!

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

With winter weather starting to arrive in Maine, many customers are wondering how their solar energy systems will perform. The answer is usually – better than you think it will!

See below:

Solar Hot Water Collectors in Winter

Buried in snow, these collectors hit 81 degrees. Shortly afterwards, with the snow melting, we got a follow-up report: 19 degrees outside and the collectors hit 125.4.

Keep it sunny!

Greely High School club spreads global awareness

Friday, December 10th, 2010
Greely High School - Portland, MaineThe 8.2kw photovoltaic system at Greely High School will offset more than 14,000 pounds of C02 emissions each year

Greely High School students are giving solid proof that committed young people can make a difference.

Part of that difference? Making a 8.2kw grid tied solar electric array on the school’s roof a reality.

The Forecaster reports:

The Global Awareness Club … recently raised almost $50,000 for the purchase and installation of 36 solar energy panels at the school… The panels could save School Administrative District 51 about $150 a month in energy cost, or an annual savings of more than $1,800.

The savings would come from 11,428 kwh of renewable energy a year, and would prevent nearly 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year.

Seeing how much teenagers can achieve is rewarding for [club member Katie] Longo and her fellow club members. “You kind of say to yourself, oh, if I put my mind to it I can do a whole bunch,” she said. “But now … every week, you’re getting together with people and you’re actually seeing a project through and seeing its effect on the community that you live in.”

We applaud the efforts of this committed group of students. It has been an honor to work with numerous students over the years as they pursue efforts to secure grants and financing for solar projects on their schools.

See more examples: