Troy, Maine - Solar Electric
Greg Rossell’s solar powered boat house will provide more than 2/3 of the power used by his home and boat shop.

We love to catalog the stories of our customers – what motivates them to go solar, and why now. This time we’re excited to have Greg Rossell, an active boat builder and board member of WERU, share his story in his own words:

I suspect everyone has a had a different path as to how they decided to go solar. We have long been interested in solar – although over the years the “solar energy” we used was mostly tied up in the firewood we burned to heat our home and boat shop. We became more interested in electricity when in 2004 we purchased a Prius – just before gasoline spiked to 4 dollars a gallon.

Over the ensuing years we have followed the politics of energy – how it is produced and what the actual cost is. All the time we kept eyeing each electrical device we owned with a chary eye – giving the energy hogs the pink slip and replacing them with more friendly models. Solar had a lot of appeal – especially compared to the alternatives. But we dawdled – after all, we were still hooked to the grid and we weren’t using that much power…

What tipped the scales for us was a week long trip we took last summer in a solar electric launch in Ontario. While the boat had a back up generator, it was rarely used it as the solar panels produced all the power we needed to cruise with 6 adults, 2 babies and a dog. All in silence, without fumes, or vibration. This was definitely cool and practical.

Upon our return, we began to do more research. And fortunately, while we had “dawdled” the technology had been continually improving. Solar panels became more efficient as did the micro-inverters that change the DC power to AC. Perhaps as important for us was that we could have a grid tied system where we could send any extra unused energy onto the electrical grid while banking energy credits. We would also avoid the hassle of dealing with batteries and all their cost and maintenance. And, there was the matter of energy credits and rebates that made the investment more affordable for us!

The next task was to look for someone to walk us through the process (and hopefully) do the installation. We decided on ReVision Energy for a number of reasons. One reason is that they are local – many of the folks who are installers are our neighbors. We knew if there was a problem there would always be someone handy to deal with it. They have done plenty of solar arrays in the state so they know the conditions in Maine and what can be realistically expected from a system. They are also business members of WERU radio which indicates that they invest in their community.

The entire experience went like clockwork – from the initial evaluation by Hans Albee, his patient answering of my multitude of questions, the crew’s speedy, clean and efficient installation of the photovoltaic panels, and Jennifer Albee’s technical guidance — walking us through the paperwork involved with getting registered as a energy provider with Central Maine Power and the application for the energy investment rebates.

In the end we went with a system that will provide 2/3 of our home and shop electricity demand. We now have a CMP double meter system that records both the energy from “away” we use as well as the power we put into the grid. It’s a most practical manner of keeping track of those electrons but I have to admit I do miss seeing our old familiar meter running merrily backwards – I could have watched that all day.

Thank you for your story, Greg! Be sure to check out the March/April edition of Wooden Boat magazine which features a shot of this system.