Niese Family Solar - Pownal, MEPictured right is Kirk Niese and his family, who recently had a 5.6 kw solar electric array installed on their home in Pownal. We talked to Kirk about his passion for renewable energy and how a working Maine family can go solar.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get interested in solar?

I first discovered Solar PV in the early 1980′s as a kid and I remember even back then thinking that it was just a clever, no-brainer of an idea environmentally. Throughout college, graduate school and in my early years as a teacher of environmental studies, I developed an interest in sustainable energy production, home heating and fuel efficient transportation which I have held ever since.

I try to ‘walk the walk’ and run a low impact logging business on the side called Niese Forest Works. My students (8th grade science) take a unit on climate change and a separate unit on energy usage that includes having them look at their carbon footprints and investigate energy efficiency/efficient use of natural resources. My brother-in-law works for Pika Energy making wind turbines as well. It’s kind of in the family.

So what pushed you to go from solar enthusiast to solar customer?

Despite my keen interest, solar always seems out of the reach financially until I had the chance to chat with some ReVision folks up at the Common Ground Fair and at the Climate Change Summit in March of 2014. After consulting with ReVision and talking with the folks at Efficiency Maine, I realized that my fears about solar being too expensive for a working family were unfounded. For a little more than the cost of a monthly electricity bill, we could begin a flexible and surprisingly affordable loan payment that allowed us to own our solar PV system. In the short term, it’s very manageable. In the long term, it’s a win/win situation for us and for the planet.

Solar has many benefits beyond the obvious financial and environmental savings. My 8 year old daughter and I now check our kilowatt-hour output on our inverter on a daily basis. Simply knowing what we are capable of producing for electricity makes me want to live within our “electricity means” (for lack of a better term) and act even more conscientiously about reducing our demand for electricity through energy/efficiency upgrades and changes in our behaviors.

How’s the solar project working out so far?

I wish that we had made the decision to purchase PV years ago! Our system is putting out power at its estimated rating and is working flawlessly. I called ReVision once on a curiosity question and had a follow up phone call that was prompt and very helpful. Since our late June 2014 installation, our system has produced nearly 2 megawatts of energy and the banking of energy credits arranged through our utility company (CMP) is working smoothly. In short, ReVision has been a great partner to work with throughout the design and installation portion of the project and I have great confidence in their ability to answer my questions and troubleshoot in the future should the need arise.