Norway, Maine - Nissan LEAF Powered by Solar Tracker

Fred Garbo plugs in his Nissan LEAF into his new dual-axis tracking solar electric array

One of the best parts about living in New England is the sense of community – neighbors helping neighbors. Historically that may have meant pitching in to help with a barn raising or helping a neighbor get through a tough winter; today, one Norway, ME customer has proven that good neighbors can help make solar happen.

The story starts with Fred Garbo, high-energy performer with Fred Garbo’s Inflatable Theater Company and one of the first Nissan LEAF owners in Maine. The concept of powering his electric car with solar electricity just made sense for Fred, who also fell in love with the technology behind the dual-axis tracking systems we install by AllEarth Renewables.

The tricky part? Fred’s home is tucked inside a picturesque stretch of Maine woods, and while cutting down trees to open a solar window was possible, it didn’t seem like the eco-friendliest way to go. So Fred teamed up with ReVision to investigate alternatives for an on-site located solar installation.

ReVision solar energy specialist Will Kessler told Fred of the various ground-mounting options – and it just happened that we were installing the first dual-axis tracker in Mainejust down the road from Garbo’s home.

Garbo loved the gains in production offered by the AllSun Tracker system, but there was still the process of placement. “When we came up with the idea of leasing a piece of land, I thought of Rick Morse, a cattle farmer who lives just a bit down the road from me,” Fred says, “I got Rick into the LEAF and HE drove my LEAF with me to see the tracker [at Dave Knightly’s farm]. I pitched the land leasing idea to Rick and asked him to do the excavating and trenches. He agreed.”

So, armed with the blessing of the landowner, and equipped with a lot of energy and a backhoe, the project began to move ahead.

A Bit Hands On

Norway, Maine - Nissan LEAF Powered by Solar TrackerOnce the easement was sorted out, Fred jumped in to help coordinate the excavation and site prep (generally ReVision offers a turn-key solar energy installation, but in the case of motivated homeowners we can sometimes find ways to collaborate).

Fred educated himself on all the videos available at AllEarth‘s website, built a ‘jig’ that allowed the tracker frame to be assemble at chest height and worked hand-in-hand with our office team to navigate the special arrangements with CMP needed to tie in to the grid, log the tracker’s solar production accurately, and apply solar credits to his account.

When all the moving parts were finally in the right places, the tracker itself went up in a matter of days, and started making power on September 11, 2012.

See a stop motion video of the tracker going up:

A Little Bit of Sunshine

Now that it’s all installed, Fred’s sentiments echo those of many happy PV customers. “It is a great feeling to be making power from the sun,” Fred says, “I look up the AllSun Energy production reports every day, and it makes me smile.”

Norway, Maine - Nissan LEAF Powered by Solar TrackerThe real-time results from his system are publicly available at:

The system has come to mean more than just power production to Fred: it’s come to signify a place that we could get to as a society.

“I think the tracker project can show folks all around Maine that it is possible right now to take charge of how you get your own energy. I can power my home and my car using clean power from the sun, and so can all of us – and the sooner the better.”

And the environmental impact on that field? “I have planted grass up there and spread hay. Through this process I have become good friends with my farmer neighbor Rick, and he is as proud as I am about the whole thing,” Fred says. “It is a beautiful thing we have all done up there on the side of the sunny meadow.”

Photos courtesy Fred Garbo. Thank you Fred!