Archive for the ‘Solar Power Projects’ Category

Camden Homeowners Connect the Dots on Climate Change

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
Camden, Maine - Solar ElectricityAnita Brosius-Scott stands next to her PV array to help Connect the Dots on Climate Change. Her home is now a net-producer of electricity each year.

The road to a more sustainable future happens one home at a time, and for Anita Brosius-Scott and Geoff Scott, that meant installing a solar photovoltaic system that would allow them to eliminate their electric bill.

“We originally thought that this kind of system was out of our price range, but we kept bumping into [ReVision] at events and eventually decided we’d at least get a quote for our home,” says Anita, “After meeting with [System Designer] Hans Albee, we found that a solar array was within our reach, especially due to a generous suite of state and federal incentives.”

Those incentives include a 30% uncapped federal tax credit and $2,000 Maine state rebate. The cash rebate remains available for now but funding is a bit uncertain in the second half of 2013; we are hopeful the new legislature will enact new rebate funding to keep the program going in the years ahead. Solar electric arrays also benefit from record low prices – the cost of solar panels has dropped by more than 50% since 2009 and, while costs are no longer dropping precipitously, they are on track to remain at record low prices through 2013.

When Economics Help the Environment

Camden, Maine - Solar Electricity

The solar array is quite low-profile on the Brosius-Scott home, located just outside the heart of Camden.

The Brosius-Scott’s array turned on the spring of 2011, and since its installation they have done several energy efficiency upgrades in their home, resulting in an overall 25% drop in electric consumption. The effect of this conservation is that a system which was designed to produce 95% of their electric bill has actually led to them becoming a net producer of electricity – meaning that their solar array produces more electricity each year than they consume.

Geoff and Anita loved that they could make a solar investment that allowed them to “walk the walk” of their values. “We’re concerned about climate change and feel that local energy production is part of the solution,” Geoff says, “Now that it’s installed, we have a system that requires no maintenance, has lowered our electric bills, and makes me feel good every time I drive home and see sun hitting the roof.”


Main Eco Homes Bring Traditional Look to Net Zero Buildings

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Maine Eco Homes Net Zero Home Sweden Maine

“Net zero is the way we all need to go” says Justin McIver, summing up the building philosophy and value proposition of his Main Eco Homes (MEH).

30-year-old McIver is a Fryeburg-native and the son of an electrician, so trades are a way of life for him and his family. But after studying environmental issues as part of his business curriculum at Colby Sawyer College in New London, NH, McIver realized that energy efficiency would be critical to the future of the building trade – and the future of the planet.

“There’s just no room for the status quo anymore,” McIver says, “Conventional building saves a little bit of money in the short-term, but long-term is a terrible proposition for both the homeowner and the environment. Our homes save you money from day one. The average Maine home spends $300 a month on heat and electricity, ours costs $0. Rolled into a mortgage, going net zero is a cash flow positive investment.”

Traditional Look, Net Zero Performance

For McIver’s MEH, it was important that premium performance not affect building aesthetics. His first custom model home, built in Sweden, is a 2,000 sq. ft. traditional craftsman building with views of Mt. Washington. “We aimed to create a classic American look, not a space age modern look,” says McIver, “Apart from the solar panels on the roof there’s not much about it that draws attention to itself.”

And solar panels it has – the 39 solar panels on the roof of the MEH model resale home will produce roughly 12,000 kWh each year, enough to power all of the ‘plug’ loads in the home as well as a mini-split air source heat pump heating system. The home features a suite of Energy Star appliances including range, dryer, and refrigerator. An efficient electric water tank will provide hot water for dishes, laundry, showers, etc.

A Collaborative Proces

ReVision frequently works with builders like McIver, as well as architects, engineers, and other building professionals throughout the early stages of a project to ensure that goals for solar integration can be achieved.

For example, a home’s overall orientation is critical, and so is ensuring there is adequate south-facing roofspace to accommodate solar panels. ReVision engineers – such as Geoff Sparrow, who worked closely with McIver – can model the expected performance of a solar array and compare it to the home’s expected energy consumption using advanced software such as PolySun. By integrating discussions of solar early in the process, the solar project can be installed more economically and effectively.

For his part, McIver is more than satisfied. “Geoff was a great resource who went above and beyond to ensure we got the information we needed and that everything moved along smoothly. So far the solar has been performing trouble-free and meeting or exceeding our expectations. We look forward to doing more.”

Facing a Warmer Future

On a walkthrough of the home with a group of Fryeburg high school students, McIver brought global issues down to the local. Quoted in the Conway Daily Sun, he says:

Due to climate change, [more extreme storms] are happening now. If you think it doesn’t impact you, it does. And the changes that your generation makes will make a difference. It’s incumbent on all of us to do the little things, too. When you don’t turn off the lights when you leave a room, for instance, not only does it cost more money, it also puts more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere … [But] it’s becoming more practical to build [net zero] homes… By building these, I am reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuels that harm our environment and which contribute to greenhouse gases. My mission is to become energy independent of fossil fuels.

Driven by an environmental as well as an economic mission, McIver is ambitious. His next project is to build a complete energy efficient community in Raymond, and future plans include proposing a solar farm to the town of Bridgton.

“The time for doing this is now,” McIver says, “When you look at the numbers, long-term, it just makes sense. When you look at the environment… you realize that it’s the way we have to go. I’ve read that 70% of people buy for efficiency and 30% buy for the environment. Now, you can do both. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Learn more about the net-zero home at Maine Eco Homes. The home is currently listed with RE/MAX at the Lake Real Estate of Bridgton, and tours are offered on an ongoing basis. You can also see a tour that was recorded online at: http://youtu.be/DHG8K5mCgN4


Solar Project Returns Dividends for Massachusetts Homeowner

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Bill Levay and Chris Lee with Solar Panel
ReVision Master Electrician Bill LeVay and solar installer Chris Lee pose with a solar panel at Kevin Cassidy’s home in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

Rising oil prices at his North Conway home prompted Kevin Cassidy to explore other options. The second home (primarily used in the winter) is well-insulated, but relies on oil for heat and hot water. So Kevin got in touch with ReVision Energy’s Dan Clapp, who took a look at the home to see what options made the most sense.

“Dan came out with his dog Bella Bluebird and surveyed the house. He asked me a bunch of questions about utility bills and took all the solar measurements,” Kevin says, “He even climbed up on the roof with a solar pathfinder to do a solar energy survey. What we discovered is that due to shading issues solar was not a great fit for the home in North Conway, but then we got to talking about our primary home in Amesbury, Massachusetts. After talking with Dan I discovered our Amesbury home offered a better opportunity to save on power bills and reduce our fossil electricity consumption.”

What a Difference a State Makes

While a 30% federal tax credit is available anywhere in the U.S. for solar installations, state rebate programs vary quite a lot. Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all have state rebate programs (up to $2,000, $3,750, and $4,250 respectively), but adding to the mix in Massachusetts are state SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates) which offer an additional, market-based incentive worth roughly ~$0.25 per kWh generated (about double the value of the average kWh saved on an electric utility bill).

The SREC program, which exists because utilities are required to purchase a certain amount of solar power to meet their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements, means that a solar investment pays for itself very quickly in Massachusetts – as little as 5-7 years (compared to ~10 years in Maine and New Hampshire). This has lead to massive growth in the solar industry, with over 27,000 KW of solar installed by mid 2012, putting Massachusetts in the top 10 states for solar in the U.S.

Another result of this solar boom is that national companies which offer solar leasing have invested heavily in Massachusetts, which has both good and bad effects. The good? Many homeowners can benefit from a 0-down lease, which offers a solar installation for no upfront cost, but paid for monthly for a bit less than it costs for their current power bill. The bad? Over the course of 20 years, those leases offer a much better deal for the solar company than the homeowner, as all of the state and federal incentives, electricity generation, and SREC benefits all go to the solar company instead of to the homeowner.

As Kevin started looking around, it quickly became clear that system ownership offered by ReVision was a significantly better deal than a solar lease. “I was surprised to find out that two of the national installers were only interested in leasing a system,” Kevin says, “Another local company pressed us to lease at first but when I insisted that I only wanted to purchase because I feel purchasing is a better investment they sent me a proposal. However, after considering the other options and doing some additional online research I found that ReVision had offered us a very fair proposal. Because of the deal we received from ReVision and the feedback I had seen on their web page, we felt good with the proposal and decided to move forward.”

Amesbury, MA - Solar Power

Boots on the Roof

Before the panels were ready to go up, Kevin needed to complete some other roofing projects such as moving a vent stack and re-roofing the south-facing side so that the roof system will be maintenance free for 30+ years. Then came the paperwork.

“We needed to get approval from the Mass CEC, a typical slow-moving government agency. The approval process dragged on for 6 weeks as we got them all of the data required. [Exeter Office Manager] Heather was instrumental in pushing this forward and keeping us up to date on the status. The install was actually the easiest part of the process. Chris, Chris, and Bill were very professional and extremely hard working and took the time to answer all of my questions and explain the fine details to me while they worked. The install took 3 days and could have probably been only 2 if I left them alone!”

Now that the system’s installed, Kevin is happy knowing that he is doing his part to curb climate change and saving money at the same time. A handy iPhone app lets him see his Solectria inverter’s system production in real time, including historic data and overall environmental footprint.

“Nothing beats the pleasure of looking at my meter and seeing it spin backwards,” Kevin says, “ReVision has been a great company to work with and I’m proud to actually own the source of my solar electric production. I look forward to decades of free electricity from the sun!”


Potts Harbor Lobster is Maine’s First Commercial Wharf to Go Solar

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Potts Harbor Lobster Solar - Harpswell, MaineNothing could be more quintessential Maine than the trade of lobstering, but Jim Merryman of Potts Harbor Lobster doesn’t think that means lobstering has to be stuck in the past. The Harpswell native has already made several energy efficiency investments to reduce his costs of operation, and now has gone the next step: adding solar.

As reported by the Times Record:

We’re going to be the first commercial working waterfront with all of its energy supplied by ‘green’ power,” Merryman said. “As a business owner, I want to take advantage of the technology out there and make this a carbon neutral, clean-energy working waterfront.”

Now 41, Merryman started lobstering when he was 8 years old with a rowing skiff and three traps. He bought Reversing Falls Lobster Wharf three years ago through the Land for Maine’s Future program, a nonprofit organization which helps preserve natural vistas, open space and traditional waterfront. A series of covenants also ensures that the property will remain working waterfront in perpetuity.

Maine lobstermen have had a rough summer. For four months, the cost of everything associated with their industry — diesel fuel, bait, insurance, rope and other essential materials — has continued to increase. But the price they get for the lobsters they catch has gone down.

Lobstermen saw a large number of soft-shell lobsters this year, which sell for a lower rate. “Soft” lobsters have a lower percentage of meat in them, which means they are less valuable to the wholesale wharves that buy them and then resell them to restaurants.

In addition to the increased costs, low demand for the New England delicacy combined to keep prices so low that many lobstermen lost money just by leaving the dock.

So, when Merryman thought about it, the ability to corral at least one business expense — such as the cost of the power needed to light and operate his live tanks, pumps, refrigeration and facilities — seemed like a very good idea.

Full article here, Also see article in The Forecaster
ReVision Energy helped Merryman through the process of designing a system and applying for a rigorous USDA REAP grant. Awarded the grant, and eligible for other rebates including a federal 30% Investment Tax Credit and state rebate of $4,000, Potts Harbor Lobster went forward with the solar project which was commissioned on September 10, 2012.

Powered by the Sun

Potts Harbor Lobster Solar - Harpswell, MaineThe 10kw solar electric array is expected to produce over 13,000 kwhrs of clean, reliable electricity a year. By reducing the amount of electricity made from traditional fossil fuels, Potts Harbor Lobster will help to keep over 20,000 pounds of CO2 from entering into our atmosphere each year, which is the equivalent to 1,020 gal of gasoline or 21 barrels of oil. While the promise of a better bottom line – thanks to eliminated electricity costs – was a big incentive to Merryman, he is also extremely aware of how the choices we make today affect our future tomorrow.

Again, the Times Record: “It’s about making a difference,” [Merryman] said. “There’s no industry in the state that relies on clean water like the lobster industry, and we’re doing our part to ensure clean water for future generations.”

Potts Harbor Lobster has been educating their customers about responsible lobster harvesting and traceability. At the same time, their customers have been educating themselves on sustainability and responsible business practices. Their belief is that a better educated consumer makes pickier decisions, and chooses more responsiblly operated businesses accordingly. And one thing is sure – at Potts Harbor Lobster, the catch is getting greener everyday.

Also featured on NECN:


Energy Efficiency Made Doable: Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District Does Net Zero Retrofit

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Plymouth NH Wastewater/Sewer District SolarReliance on fossil fuels hits towns and local government in the pocket book just as much as it does homeowners and businesses. In times of tight budgets on every level of government, saving money thanks to efficiency makes good fiscal as well as environmental sense. Moreover, town buildings can serve as a model for their communities. Thinking “big” on the local level and that can cause ripples outward into the community.

This kind of thinking is what drove Steve Kahl and Bob Reals of the Plymouth (NH) Energy Commission to submit four DOE grants for projects at their local water and sewer districts (Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District-PVWSD). Their vision? Take a conventional double-wide trailer used for office space and turn it into an energy efficient, net-zero building.

“The idea came from a basic concept: let’s demonstrate what is possible,” says Steven Kahl, architect of the grants, “Unlike the town hall, these administrative offices are housed in a double-wide trailer, which we thought more people could relate to. We wanted to make the point that any building can benefit from efficiency improvements. We had plenty of naysayers that were sure energy efficiency and renewable energy doesn’t work, so we wanted to show, not tell, a different story.”

Making It Happen

schematic of net zero retrofitThe successful funding of two DOE grants, plus local utility and state rebates made the project possible. One proposal was for the efficiency and super-insulation part of the project, where the fairly conventional building benefited from 20″ of cellulouse and 2″ of spray foam insulation in the ceiling, raising it to R80, 4″ of foam and 6″ of fiberglass batts in the walls, raising them to R-43, as well as 5″ of foam insulation in the basement and improvements to doors and windows.

Another grant funded renewable energy inputs: solar photovoltaic systems on the town library, elementary school, and PVWSD administrative office. The 9.4kw grid-tied solar electric system will generate roughly 11,900 kWh annually, providing for all of the electric needs of the space – including electric heat! The choice to maintain electric heat, and offset it with clean solar power, means that the building generates all of its own energy. In other words, it is ‘net zero.’

The Results

solar pv net zero resultsAccording to Kahl, the project went smoothly and results have been impressive.  “I had solar installed on my home, too, and I can say with this one ReVision came with their usual ultra professional design and installation.  The solar array started banking electricity for winter use as of this March, and has so far generated a surplus of almost 4,000 kWh.”

Of course, it’s not just about the numbers – a well insulated building feels better, too.  “The occupants report greatly increased comfort after the retrofit due,” Kahl says, “The project resulted in a 70% reduction in air infiltration, resulting in an indoor environment that is considerably more consistently heated and comfortable.”

This demonstration project was funded by an ARRA grant, NH Office of Energy and Planning, Department of Energy, the NH Electric Coop and the Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District.  All of the technologies used in the project are cost-effective for homeowners, who in NH can now benefit from a recently revived state rebate program.