Solar Champion Stories

Western Massachusetts Pairs Solar + Heat Pumps

We love spending time with our Solar Champions. They’re inspiring, passionate, and basically fun to be around. So when our new teammates from Sunbug Solar recommended we launch a Solar Happy Hour series like they’d done previously, we were immediately on board. Clean energy chats, climate action, and beer from a solar-powered local brewery? Sign us up.  

At our first Solar Happy Hour of 2024 – at solar-powered Big Elm Brewing in Great Barrington, MA – we connected with Sunbug Solar Champion Nick Noyes. Nick, who lives in Adams, MA, first met Sunbug in 2018 when the Center for Ecological Technology launched a solar + heating program and chose Sunbug as its primary solar contractor.  

sunsquatch ecology school array_resize.jpgSunsquatch behind the Ecology School solar array. Credit: ReVision Energy"I had been thinking about solar for years because my roof was ideally positioned facing south,” explains Nick. “But before 2018 electricity was relatively low-cost and I couldn’t justify the expense.” Nick works for Integrated Eco Strategy (IES), a sustainability consulting and project management software firm that helps builders, architects, designers, and engineers improve working processes and achieve their green building goals. (In fact, IES worked with The Ecology School to achieve the Living Building Challenge, which included ReVision Energy’s 257 kW solar installation). Yet despite understanding the benefits – both financial and environmental – of solar, Nick has still been surprised by how many “intangibles and good surprises” there have been in his solar journey.  

The All-Electric Household  

Sunbug_Noyes2.jpgNick’s 9.2 kw rooftop solar system covers his entire electric bill, even as he’s made the switch to more electric appliances. His workshop – heated and cooled with an air source heat pump – houses an electric lawnmower, electric weedwhacker, and electric rototiller.  

“If I didn’t have solar I probably wouldn’t have thought about it,” Nick says, “but having the solar has pushed me to change from gas-powered tools to electric tools. The tools just work better, they last longer, and they don’t cost anything to run with the solar!”  

Sunbug_Noyes1.jpgSunbug Solar sized the system to cover Nick’s existing and anticipated electric costs, and made sure to use his rooftop efficiently to include the maximum number of panels.  

“Sunbug had a very nice design and an accurate assessment,” Nick says. “I essentially haven’t paid anything for my electricity since it was installed.” Nick’s solar array has generated 46.2 megawatt-hours of clean solar energy, saving him almost $10,000 since it was installed.

Solar + Heat Pumps: A Dream Pairing  

Through the CET program, Nick also installed air source heat pumps to pair with his solar system. Nick’s main source of heating is wood, but he says he’s been using his heat pumps more and more in the winter because “they’re very efficient and really just easy.”  

Sunbug_Noyes4.jpgHe also realized the heat pumps’ cooling function is crucial now as summers become hotter and more humid. Living in a stone house, August is much more pleasant with the dehumidifying capability of the heat pump. 

“Here in the Berkshires, fifteen years ago, we didn’t use AC. We’d just open a window. Well that’s all changed, so to have air conditioning in my house that’s barely a blip on my electric bill is unbelievable. That combination of heat pumps and solar is phenomenal.”  

"Thanks to Sunbug - which was fully committed to ensuring the best possible results - I have a system that will help protect the environment and lower my energy bills for years to come. I couldn't be more pleased."

**All photos by Nick Noyes.