Solar Champion Stories

Steve Smith & Alayne Marker Use Solar to Grow Independent Homestead Steve And Alayne In Their Home

Expansive mountain views and open pasture surround Steve Smith and Alayne Marker's 100-acre homestead in the northern New Hampshire town of Northumberland.

The land, which provides food and forage for chickens and growing space for vegetables, is now also home to a ground mounted solar array, adding another valuable resource - electricity - to Steve and Alayne's homestead.

We talked with Steve and Alayne about the 16.5 kW solar power system they recently purchased from ReVision and why they consider it one of the best investments they have ever made.

Tell us a little bit about yourself - how did you get interested in solar?

We've been concerned about climate change for a long time, and reducing our own fossil fuel "footprint" seemed to be the logical place to start doing something about it at a personal level.

Of course, with New Hampshire having some of the highest electricity rates in the country - rates that just keep on rising - it also made it a very cost-effective decision, too.

What made you feel it was time to make a solar investment?

While we have owned this property for several years, we were renting it out for a while and didn't move here until the spring of 2017. In anticipation of the move, we had contacted ReVision in 2016 to get the solar project underway, and it was completed that December.

We produce a lot of our own food, from vegetables to broiler chickens, and consequently we have several freezers in operation, so we wanted to have solar up and running for our food storage needs. If you have higher than average electricity needs, like we do, then solar makes even more sense.

Why did you choose ReVision Energy?

We were impressed with everything we had seen online about ReVision and with what we had heard about the company. From the moment we contacted ReVision, the experience was great - friendly, professional, helpful.

We chose a ground-mount installation, two 50-foot arrays with 30 modules on each array. The installation took place in the latter half of November and the first part of December, and the weather turned wet and cold just as the crew arrived.

So the conditions were difficult, but the ReVision team worked right on through, keeping a surprisingly cheerful attitude the entire time. We could tell the crew had a genuine passion for renewable energy. Despite the weather, the project got done when ReVision said it would.

What do you like best about the system now that it's installed?

With just over a year's worth of solar production now, we're delighted to find that during this time we have not paid a penny for electricity other than the Eversource meter charge that amounts to about $13 a month.

We wanted a solar system that would provide for all of our electricity needs for the house and main barn, and it does that and then some. Because we produced more electricity than we used during the spring, summer and fall, we banked those solar "credits" with Eversource via net metering, and are now drawing against them over the winter. Even after a dark, snowy and unusually cold December and early January, our latest Eversource bill shows we still have 7,099 kilowatt hours in "the bank." So that gives us future flexibility for adding an electric vehicle like the Chevy Bolt, for example.

It amazes us to see how much solar power our arrays are producing even on overcast days. We never really expected to be generating electricity when the sun actually isn't shining ... but we do!

One unexpected benefit: We installed the arrays in a 6-acre field where we pasture our layer and broiler flocks. It turns out the chickens and their guardian dog love using the arrays for shade on sunny days!

Anything else you'd like to share?

When it's hard to find anything that will provide a decent return on investment these days, it's clear to us that investing in solar was one of the best decisions we could have made. We compare our previous Eversource bills to what we pay now, and the difference is striking - we're saving hundreds of dollars a month. We couldn't find a better, or safer, return on investment. Of course, knowing that we're producing clean, renewable energy makes it even better!