Archive for the ‘Solar Power Projects’ Category

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.

Unity College and ReVision Energy Partnership Project Spotlights Solar Efficiency, Leading with Affordable Renewable Energy

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
Unity College Solar Electricity

ReVision staffers stand outside a completed solar array at Thomason Learning Lab at Unity College. Four of our six staffers pictured here are Unity alums!

Unity College, long a leader in sustainability and environmental responsibility among college campuses, has taken a big next step: installing a large-scale solar electric array across two campus buildings. With the project, Unity College will demonstrate the viability of solar for college campuses and other non-profits.

The two installations, completed in September, were financed through a Power Purchase Agreement (or PPA) – an innovative financing approach that allows ReVision Energy to own and operate the system on Unity’s campus for six years, selling the power produced by the solar array to the college in the meantime. The 37 kW (kilowatt) 144-panel solar photovoltaic array will be mounted on Quimby Library and the Thomashow Learning Laboratory roofs and is expected to produce about 45,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually – more than 80% of the library’s previous average annual demand.

How it Works

The grid-tied system will send any electricity not immediately used by the library onto the public utility grid, generating a credit for the college to be applied at other times of the year when the solar system is less productive. This net-metering relationship with the grid means no battery storage is needed on site, and essentially treats Unity’s solar project as a tiny power plant. Any electricity demanded by the library that is not met by the system will be drawn from the grid as normal – electricity that Unity College has offset with the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) since 2002.

“This installation is an important visible addition to our diverse energy portfolio which includes an existing 5.4-kW solar array at the Unity House,” noted Jesse Pyles, Sustainability Coordinator at Unity College. “We’re thrilled to be working with ReVision Energy on this project. They have a stellar reputation in the field as the leading solar installers in Maine and New Hampshire, and their team of professional technicians and project managers includes a number of Unity College alums. ReVision Energy is a mission-driven company that makes the extra effort to engage and educate the public about the viability of renewable energy in New England and beyond.”

Pyles’ comments are echoed by ReVision’s own staff. ReVision Energy’s Liberty Shop Manager, John Luft, added that “To install this array here in Waldo County, right up the road from where we live and work, is especially meaningful. In many ways, as Unity graduates, we’re coming full circle with this project, all while providing a real-world solution that has a place in our local and national economies.”

Long Term Results: Reduced C02 Emissions, Electricity Savings

After six years, Unity College will have the option to purchase the system from ReVision for a fraction of the original cost. Once the College assumes ownership, they will pay nothing for the solar electricity produced by the system. Based on the predicted cost of purchase in year 7, the electricity savings generated by the system should pay off its upfront cost in 7-8 years, all from a system predicted to last 30-40 years.

“This installation is an important additional step to reaching our climate emission reduction goals and adds another strong component to our sustainability education for all of Unity’s students,” Pyles said. “Additionally, the Quimby Library serves several surrounding towns. Coupled with a highly visible wood pellet heating system, this solar installation makes the library a public demonstration of achievable, alternative approaches to energy in Maine.”

Unity College is a small private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education that emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

Owner hopes sun shines on Harpswell wharf

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Potts Harbor Lobster Solar

Potts Harbor Lobster owner Jim Merryman with two Maine lobsters underneath his solar photovoltaic array

The Forecast covered our solar installation for Potts Harbor Lobster in Harpswell, Maine.

Dylan Martin writes:

HARPSWELL — Reversing Falls Lobster may be the first wharf in Maine to use grid-tied solar energy.

That’s according to owner Jim Merryman, who watched a small crew of local contractors from ReVision Energy of Portland install 44 solar panels Monday on two roofs of his wharf overlooking Ash Point Cove.

“As lobstermen, we practice sound, sustainable conservation measures every day to be good stewards of the ocean, to preserve this industry, to make sure that it’s there for future generations,” Merryman said on Monday evening after the panels were installed. “As a business owner, I wanted to take it to another level.”

… By securing a $11,750 grant from U.S. Department of Argriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program this past summer, Merryman said he was able to subsidize the $46,500 cost of his system.

“Solar was really the only feasible alternative energy source we could implement in this location,” said the wharf owner, who purchased the property formerly known as Bibber’s Lobster three years ago.

More information and full story with the Forecaster:

Solar Electric Vehicle Exceeds 100 Miles Per Gallon; Zero Emissions

Saturday, September 1st, 2012
Londonderry, NH - Solar Electric Car Charging

Chevy Volt parked outside a home in Londonderry, NH, which sports 5kw of solar panels. The solar array produces enough electricity to ‘refuel’ the Volt in 2-3 hours of full sun

Since we first started talking about electric vehicles, several ReVision Energy customers have gone on to purchase electric cars. So, we eagerly asked the question: How well does your solar array complement your electric vehicle charging?

According to Evan Sohm of Londonderry, NH – solar works GREAT with his electric car (a Chevy Volt). Here’s Evan’s experience in his own words:

I drive from Londonderry, NH to Methuen, MA for work, Monday thru Friday. It’s approximately a 37 mile round trip; the Volt will go approximately 40 miles on 10kWHr of charge. As a result, I’ve been driving the Volt to and from work without using any gas.

The PV Solar Panels on my roof produce 4kW of power in full sun. So if the sun shines on my roof for 2.5hours, that produces 10kWHr of energy which is enough to drive the car for 40 miles! On average our PV system produces 18.9kWhr/day. If you use all that energy to charge the Volt you could drive 75 miles per day with zero fuel expenses.

If we drove a regular car that gets 25mpg for 75 miles, that would require 3 gallons of gas. So for us, it’s like our solar panels produce 3 gallons of gas per day, every day.

I couldn’t be happier, because in all honesty, I hate giving my money to the oil companies. Not only do I get to save money and help the environment, but I get to drive a really cool car! Everybody who takes a ride in it says it’s like a space ship. But the Chevy Volt is not rocket science. It’s like any other regular car, only much more efficient. So far, I’ve driven 7,000 miles and the lifetime fuel economy is 107mpg.

Evan has made his solar data publicly accessible and you can view it online at:

We’ll have more about solar and electric car driving soon with new videos in our Solar Road Tour series and an appearance by our fully decked our Chevy Volt at the Common Ground Fair this year. Also be sure to swing by our offices at 142 Presumpscot St, Portland to see our charging station whenever you’re in the area.

Fairwinds Farm Powers up Maine’s First Solar tracker

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Oxford, Maine - Solar Tracker

20 solar electric panels make up this grid tied dual-axis solar tracker installed for Fairwinds Farm in Oxford, Maine. The first AllSun tracker in Maine!

Strawberry pickers at Fairwinds Farm in Oxford, Maine, this late June were greeted with more than just beautiful summer weather and luscious berries: they had an opportunity to watch the installation of Maine’s first AllSun Solar Tracker!

The tracker is a Series-20, meaning it has 20x 240 watt solar electric panels, for a nameplate production rating of 4.8KW. The dual-axis tracker has a motor driven by GPS so that it follows the sun east-to-west and up-and-down to always capture the most solar resource available.

The tracker will produce roughly 30% more power than a fixed-array of the same production capacity, and, in this case, is estimated to produce 8,558 kWh per year – more than $1,300 worth of electricity! The system will produce 100% of the Farm’s current electric ‘plug’ loads, and is sized to offset electric usage from a new electric water heater and the addition of an electric car (a 1974 restored VW Sun Buggy – more on that in a moment!).

The Lewiston Sun Journal spoke a bit about the project:

“We’re trying to be environmentally responsible,” said [farm owner Dave] Knightly, a Spanish teacher at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. He operates a strawberry picking business with his wife and children, Liz and Benji, during the summer.

The solar power will replace the oil-powered hot-water heater and back up the wood stove heat in the house, Knightly said. He has a vegetable-oil-fueled Mercedes and is working on a 1974 Volkswagen Beetle that will run on electricity.

About that 1974 Volkswagen Beetle – Knightly has been restoring VWs for years and when he got wind that there were electric vehicle conversion kits available for a vehicle named the “Sun Buggy,” he knew what he had to do.

“I drive 4 miles to work each day at the High School, so it doesn’t make any sense to be driving a gasoline-powered vehicle,” Knightly said. “Now we have enough solar power to produce 100% of our electric bill plus the electric car. With everything about oil being so uncertain, this gives us huge confidence for the future. We’re paying into it now, so we can save a bunch of money later.”

For Fairwinds Farm, which already has a veggie-oil powered Mercedes, low-spray techniques for their berries and biodegradeable cups at their lemonade stand, the solar represents the next level of environmental responsibility. “It’s just another piece of the puzzle,” Knightly added. “Customers come and see the solar array and think: hey, I can do this too.”

Come out to Oxford and pick some strawberries and see the tracker! Some more info on the farm at:

More Photos of this Project

From our Residential Solar Photo Gallery:

Oxford, Maine - Solar Tracker
Oxford, Maine - Solar Tracker
Oxford, Maine - Solar Tracker
Oxford, Maine - Solar Tracker

For more installations, see our Solar Projects Map

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