Archive for the ‘Solar Power Projects’ Category

Aikido of Maine Balances Economics, Environment with Solar Array

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Aikido of Maine Solar - Portland, ME

Aikido of Maine business owner Gary Small stands next to his solar panels, which overlook Back Bay, Portland, Maine

When Gary Small and his wife Ania moved to Maine in 2000, they came looking for the right place to live the right life and to build a dojo to train the art of Aikido. The right place was Portland, Maine and the right dojo was a space on Anderson Street that would become Aikido of Maine.

“Aikido has been part of my life since I was a teenager. It is a unique practice among the martial arts because it is based on using non violent solutions to addresss aggression,” says Gary. “When founding Aikido of Maine, Ania and I took elements that resonated with us from the many dojos we had trained in over the years and incorporated them into a design that was uniquely our own. Building a dojo is an ongoing process, it never ends and we are always looking for ways to make it a better place.”

Aikido is often referred to as ‘The Art of Peace’ and is a non-competitive Japanese martial-art. It is unique in that it is founded on creating harmony out of conflict and order out of chaos with the aim at refining the individual and making the world a better place. It offers students the ability to learn self defense skills while simultaneously instilling character traits of cooperation, responsibility, respect, discipline and responsible decision making.

“Founder Morhei Ueshiba believed that this practice would help make a better world,” says Gary. “The name Aikido itself represents Ueshiba’s belief that the true meaning of the martial arts is to protect rather than harm.”

A Matter of Balance

Aikido of Maine training seminar

Training during a Fall 2012 seminar with William Gleason Sensei. Photo courtesy Aikido of Maine.

The principle to protect rather than harm applies as strongly to the environment as it does to interpersonal conflict. “We are concerned with all of the issues related to greenhouse gas emissions and warming trends on the earth,” Gary says. “As a business, the financial piece needed to balance the environmental benefits. It was when I met with Fortunat [co-founder of ReVision] that I learned that system costs had decreased by more than half in the last few years and that a strong suite of incentives was available for businesses like mine.”

ReVision Energy worked with Gary to design an 8kw solar electric array to be mounted on the flat rubber roof of his building. The solar electric panels are predicted to offset 98% of his facility’s electric usage, offering a savings of over $1,500 annually. The savings should pay for the system cost in roughly 7-9 years, while simultaneously offsetting 10,000 lbs of CO2 emissions each year.

While the financial side of the project needed to work, it’s the intangibles that excite Gary the most about the dojo’s new solar array. “Looking at the sun and knowing we are harvesting our own energy is a wonderful feeling,” Gary says. “We are doing our part to restore balance to the ecosystem, while also enjoying the benefits of making a sound financial decision.”

Aikido of Maine offers introductory classes to children and adult on a rolling basis, with a flexible schedule to fit the goals of busy lifestyle and training available six days a week. Learn more at:www.aikidoofmaine.com.


State and Federal Credits Make Solar a No-Brainer Investment for Salisbury, MA Household

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Salisbury, Massachusetts - Solar Electric

Joe and Terry Buttaro have had solar on their roof since the 1980s when they had the opportunity to participate in a solar hot water heating experiment conducted by their local power company. By the 2000s, their old collectors were showing signs of wear and tear, and they were itching for the moment when more modern collectors would make sense for them.

“For many years the cost of the upfront investment on a solar electric (PV) system was very high,” says Joe, “When we learned that the costs of solar panels had dropped dramatically, and were eligible for state and federal tax credits, rebates, and renewable energy credits, we knew we needed to learn more.”

A powerful suite of incentives makes Massachusetts the sixth biggest solar market in the United States, with over 200MW of solar installed across the state, 129MW of which was installed in 2012 (http://www.seia.org/state-solar-policy/massachusetts). The 235 solar companies in the state employ over 4,500 workers. Massachusetts is on track to meet or exceed its goal of 400MW of installed solar by 2017.

Homeowners like the Buttaros are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit, an additional $1,000 state tax credit, a state rebate of up to $4,250, and participation in the state’s Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) program. SRECs are a market based program where homeowners are paid for the carbon-savings of their system (in addition to their actual kWh savings by offsetting grid electricity). Utilities in Massachusetts are required to purchase a minimum amount of solar power as part of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the SREC program allows individual homeowners to sell their solar credits to utilities.

When all added up, the combination of strong incentives and excellent pricing on equipment means that homeowners like the Buttaros can realize as little as a 5 year ‘simple’ return on investment for their solar array.

To Lease or Not To Lease

The availability of strong incentives for solar has caused lenders to catch the solar bug as well. By purchasing the equipment and then leasing it to homeowners for no money down, solar lease companies can benefit from all the state and federal solar incentives while also charging the homeowner for the power produced by the solar panels. For homeowners that want solar and do not have the upfront capital, this may be a fine arrangement, but when you look at the numbers critically it is a far better financial deal long-term to own your equipment. Solar PV arrays are long-lived systems that will have positive financial effects for 40-50 years, paying for themselves many times over in their useful life. When a homeowner leases a solar array, they receive none of these benefits.

The Buttaros realized this financial paradox quickly when they started looking into solar again. “We contacted many solar energy installers looking for a system that would be right for us. It wasn’t until we met [ReVision’s NH Sales Manager] Steve Condon that we were sure we would get what we were looking for. As we proceeded with the process, Heather Fournier became the ‘go to girl’ helping us with all the necessary paper work. When installation day came, we got quite a show! The guys were great.”

Salisbury, Massachusetts - Solar Electric

To date, the Buttaro’s system has generated nearly 100% of the electric needs for their home. But solar power is more than just energy savings, according to Joe. “The solar installation does everything it was supposed to do and even makes our home look better. I wish we could’ve done this 30 years ago.”

Join the Buttaros and ReVision Energy on June 1st for a solar open house at their home, 8 Souther Lane, Salisbury, Massachusetts from 10am to 12pm.


ReVision Staffers Walk the Walk

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Durham NH Solar Power

When Kimry Corrette invited ReVision Energy to her home for a site evaluation in August of 2012, she hardly thought it would lead to not just a solar energy installation in her home, but a new career in the solar industry.

Kimry and her husband, Corey, have lived in their passive solar house on the outskirts of Durham for six years. Over that time, they worked on reducing their home’s energy use to the lowest reasonable level, while building an expanding menagerie along the way (3 dogs, 2 cats, 2 goats, and a motley bunch of chickens). However, the time had come to push their home to the next level. An article of Mother Earth News informed them that solar had become a lot more affordable, and so the young couple looked into what solar energy could do for their New England home.

“When [Exeter branch manager] Dan Clapp came to my house, I was moved by how far the solar industry has come and I wanted to be part of it,” Kimry says, “Sometime after our visit, Corey was looking at ReVision’s website and noticed they were hiring – it just seemed like a perfect fit.”

Kimry joined us as an office assistant to help manage the vast amount of paperwork needed to keep jobs moving efficiently in New Hampshire and Massachusett’s regulatory environment. Meanwhile, ReVision Energy got to work planning the installation on Kimry’s home.

Solar in the Snow

“We were swamped with a huge snow storm right before the installation,” Kimry says, “The day after, the crew was out there, shoveling a trench to where they needed to install the wire and cleaning snow off the roof. Once they got the snow out of the way, I was amazed at how efficiently the crew got to work.”

Coming from previous employment for a more conventional contractor, Kimry was impressed at our crew’s professionalism and team spirit. “I had heard all sorts of great things about our crew from customers I talked to, but seeing it is another thing entirely. I came from a world where the installers were a bit rough around the edges, and ReVision’s crew was a stark contrast. The guys always had a smile on their face, were extra courteous when working in our home, and were very articulate when I asked them all sorts of questions about the particulars of the system installation.”

Kimry Corrette - ReVision Energy team

The Joy of Solar

The Correttes had us install 16 American-made all black Suniva solar modules with Enphase inverters, for a production capacity of 4.2kw, plenty enough to provide for their home’s electricity needs.

Now that it’s installed, Kimry finds all sorts of intangible benefits besides a negated electric bill. “It’s just great to look out and see the sun shine and be happy about it,” Kimry says. “I find myself looking at the production each day, eager to see how one day compares to the next, and getting excited as the days get longer. It’s surprising how much sunshine there is, even in February!”

Of course, living with solar is also the best way to understand the systems, and Kimry’s been able to apply her own experience as she helps out customers. “While there’s a lot to learn at first, when you get down to it, it’s a simple system. When the sun is out, our home is making power, we’re saving fossil fuel and saving money. I love what it does!”

Kimry is not alone among ReVision Energy staffers – in fact, just about every ReVision Energy employee who owns their home has a renewable energy system installed on top. Get some ideas on how to make your home more sustainable by reading through our employee bios.


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