Archive for the ‘Solar Power Projects’ Category

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.


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: http://www.theforecaster.net/news/print/2012/09/14/owner-hopes-sun-shines-harpswell-wharf/134797