Solar Champion Stories

Wildnauer Woodworking Walks the Walk

The 8.67 kilowatt solar electric array on Wildnauer Woodworking in South Berwick will provide close to 100% of the electric needs of this custom cabinetry shop.

Customer Q&A: Wildnauer Woodworking, South Berwick, ME

We caught up with Fred Wildnauer, a woodworker and solar customer in South Berwick, to talk about the value of adding solar to his business and the value of going solar both for economic and envrionmental reasons.

RE: Tell us about yourself - What was your motivation for going solar?

FW: I have a small custom woodworking business in an outbuilding on my property. I have 3 employees and we specialize in cabinets for kitchens, libraries, bathrooms and media rooms. Most of my work is residential but I have done some church work and public libraries. I have been in my present location for about 25 years.My building is about 30 feet wide and 100 feet long and is oriented north south. The south facing wall of my shop has 5 large windows that I salvaged from a automobile garage that was being torn down. I had always noticed that I got enough warmth through these windows in the winter so that my heating needs were minimal. I also notice that there was quite a bit of heat gain from running the all the woodworking equipment during the day.

Thinking about how fortunate we were because of those two things, I had one of those "ah ha" moments. I have a near perfect situation for solar power. I only work during the day so if I came up with way to generate the electricity I use with solar panels, it would be good for my bottom line and good for the earth. I had always felt a little guilty for using up more than my share of the world's resources (as Americans we should all feel that guilt). I live in a part of the world where you must drive a car. I heat my shop with propane and my house with heating oil (albeit biodiesel). I work with wood, sometimes exotic woods like teak, mahogany, rosewood and others. Sure, wood is a renewable but loggers build the roads that allow the people to burn down the forest for cattle grazing. Loggers are the first exploiters of the forest. I am not planting a tree for every tree I use. Thinking about all these things (sanding gives one lots of time to think) I vowed to become less part of the problem and more part of the solution. I started my research into going solar.

One of my main clients is a contractor in Portsmouth, NH called EcoSound Builders. Pete and Ethan, the owners, are building homes and additions that are ecological responsible. I started talking about solar with those guys and they said that the only company to talk to was Revision Energy. I think Pete used you guys on his own house which is one of my favorite house on the Seacoast. The whole idea still had to make sense for my bottom line. Frankly, like most of the folks in construction, the last economic downturn was tough. I barely survived and I was not interested in going farther into debt. But, this year, things began to look better. Also, the federal tax credit looked like it might go away with an administration change in Washington. I decided to get serious and I called ReVision.

RE: Cool. Soooo did we live up to the hype?

FW: Your man, Nate Bowie, came out and climbed all over my shop roof. He agreed that I had a very good set up for solar so he came back with a proposal. I was quite impressed with Nate's enthusiasm and commitment. ReVision had been around a while and, as I said, had a good reputation but, there were some new guys on the block so I went shopping. After I got another quote, Nate and I did some revisions on my system and he explained some things about the equipment ReVision supplied. That got me leaning your way yet there was still money left on the table. I was discussing my situation with my friends at EcoSound and they both said, "ReVision is the best. You'll be impressed with their installers. Go with them. You will not be sorry."

That was enough for me. I signed the contract and in a couple of months the installers were here. I can't say enough good things about the crew. They were courteous and professional. What I particularly liked was their enthusiasm for the product and their attention to detail. As a craftsman myself. I truly appreciate someone who takes pride in their work. Your crew was just what I wanted. I only wish I needed a bigger array so that they would have been around longer.

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

FW: I've only had the system for a few months now so the "new car smell" is still strong, so to speak. I like the daily reports I get via email and I love being able to check how the system is functioning by just one click on my browser. Right now I am generating almost 3,000 watts and have kept 7.4 kg of carbon out of the air. It feels like I am not as much part of the problem and more part of the solution.

Here's a thought: standing trees are good for the environment because they sequester carbon. I am using trees to make my living but now because of the solar panels, I am sequestering some of the carbon that the trees I use would have done. If not adding carbon is the same thing as removing carbon, then this good feeling is what I like best. Oh, my utility bill is going from $170 per month to $14. With the tax and depreciation incentives, I should have this paid off in 8 years, sooner if you count inflation. That's not bad but it is not my first motivation for doing this.

RE: Wow, that speaks for itself. Closing thoughts?

FW: Sometimes when I stare up at the night sky or stand by the edge of the ocean I think about how this tiny blue planet in the vastness of the universe is the only place we have found so far that has sentient life or life at all. We owe it to our children and to our planet to take care of the place. It's the most important work we can do.