Cheryl Wheeler Cathleen Joyce

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Ratio of CA : NY





The system size advantage goes to the smaller system in California, but the energy value in dollars is greater in New York, making the point that solar electricity is not only effective in the sunniest parts of the United States, but also in the Northeast due to high retail electricity rates.

The system size advantage goes to the smaller system in California, but the energy value in dollars is greater in New York, making the point that solar electricity is not only effective in the sunniest parts of the United States, but also in the Northeast due to high retail electricity rates.

northeast solar

Rhode Island, the utility National Grid has worked closely with industry leaders to develop a streamlined and effective interconnection application process that may also serve as a valuable model.

Solar Support

It hasn't escaped the notice of savvy politicians that solar technology is simply good business: It is one of the most labor-intensive fields in the energy industry, and is on track to create more than 30,000 new jobs in the United States by 2015. These are not low-wage temporary positions, but quality careers in manufacturing, engineering, and installation. According to a Solar Energy Industries Association report, "each megawatt of installed systems supports 32 jobs, a quarter of which are local installation and sales positions."

The success that solar is seeing in the Northeast should put to rest any doubts about its effectiveness and value. The region receives more sunshine than Germany, which boasts the most installed PV of any country in recent years. Solar installers and energy professionals agree that, unlike the "boom and bust" environment created by quickly established—and quickly snuffed—subsidy programs in the '70s and '80s, interest and investment in renewable energy is here to stay.

Although occasional predictions of "breakthroughs" in module efficiency appear in the press regularly, it is unlikely that this will result in significantly decreased consumer prices in the near term. More likely, increased manufacturing capacity will bring down the price of tried-and-true silicon-based modules. Many industry experts are forecasting continued equipment-cost reductions in the years ahead. As the installed cost per watt of PV declines, financial incentives will likely be scaled back and ultimately eliminated. But that is not necessarily a bad thing: It would simply mean that solar technology is finally coming into its own as an economically viable, clean energy choice.

RE on the East Coast

Owner Name: Robert & Lisbeth Chew Location: Bristol, Rhode Island Average Peak Sun-Hours: 4.46 System Type: Grid-tied PV System Size: 4 KW

Average Annual Production: 4,960 KWH

Although this hundred-year-old home in Bristol is not governed by the stricter rules of the historical district that begins one block to the west, its new owners wanted to respect traditional aesthetics while installing a modern PV system. The steep pitch of the south-facing roof threatened to make a typical PV installation stand out, so careful array design and module selection was key. The Chews opted for a rectangular design that followed the home's roof lines, and chose SunPower SPR-200 modules, with their less obtrusive flat-black appearance.

Twenty modules feed into two SunPower SPR-2000 inverters. During its first twelve months of operation, the system produced just over 4,960 kilowatt-hours. This has delighted Robert and Lisbeth, as it has effectively freed them from paying a monthly utility bill. Rhode Island's netmetering regulation zeros out excess PV production annually, which means the Chews can build up credits during the sunnier months, and then use them in the winter. The Chews say the array has the added benefit of shading the roof, making their upstairs office cooler in the summer, reducing the use of a window-mounted air conditioner and further decreasing their need for electricity.

To respect the traditional aesthetics of their historic neighborhood, Lisbeth and Bob Chew installed an unobtrusive rooftop PV system that followed their home's roof lines.

To respect the traditional aesthetics of their historic neighborhood, Lisbeth and Bob Chew installed an unobtrusive rooftop PV system that followed their home's roof lines.

Cathleen Joyce

northeast solar

Owner Name: Pine Point School

Location: Stonington, Connecticut

Average Peak Sun-Hours: 4.46

System Type: Grid-tied PV

System Size: 72.6 KW

Average Annual Production: 80,000 KWH

At Pine Point School, children learn the four R's: reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic—and renewables—with a 72.6-kilowatt rooftop solar-electric array that provides 40% of the school's electricity needs. The system was funded in part through a special grant from Connecticut's On-Site Renewable Energy Generation program, with the balance of costs funded through the solar developer. The school purchases the solar electricity at a reduced rate through a green power purchase agreement with the system owner.

Under this agreement, common for large commercial projects, the system developer owns the PV system and sells renewable energy to the host at a reduced rate, adjusted annually depending on the cost of electricity provided by the local utility. This allows Pine Point School to avoid budgeting the large cost of purchasing the system. As retail rates for utility electricity continue to climb, the school will benefit by having reduced its grid usage.

"This is the first small-scale project in Connecticut to incorporate a creative power purchase agreement between the system developer and the host site," says Lise Dondy, chief operating director of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.

Pine Point students are proud of their solar-electric school.

"Pine Point wants to reduce its carbon footprint," says Pine Point head of school Paul Geise. "In doing so, it hopes to serve as a model for other schools in Connecticut and throughout the country. There's no doubt that in the last year there has been a sea of change in the public's perception of the environment, most notably regarding the topic of global warming. Pine Point is committed to being a good steward of the environment, both institutionally and through its work with students. That spirit and commitment have been most tangibly demonstrated with the installation of a photovoltaic system that will supply well over a third of the school's electricity."

Owner Name: Mark & Lisa Nelson Location: Westerly, Rhode Island Average Peak Sun-Hours: 4.64 System: Evacuated tube solar hot water System Size: Viessman V300, 30-tube collector Average Annual Production: 9.0 MBtu (2,638 KWH)

The Nelsons chose a solar hot water system to offset their use of an oil-fueled boiler that provides both space heating and domestic water heating. With two children and frequent guests, their boiler was running much of the time, which was especially annoying in the summer months. By switching to a solar hot water system, the boiler rarely needs to run to heat water for their household.

The Nelsons' roof, which faces 40 degrees west of true south, offered a particular design challenge for a typical flat-plate solar hot water system. Finally, it was decided that an evacuated tube system would be a better match because it is easier to rotate the tubes toward the south for maximum solar exposure. A 20-watt PV module powers the system's circulation pump. Because of this, the system can continue to function in the event of power outages. At 80 gallons of 120°F water per day, their hot water use is a bit higher than the 62 gallons typically used by a family of four. But the effect of installing the system has been that they rarely rely on using their oil-fueled boiler in the summer—the system provides about 70% of their yearly hot water needs.

northeast solar

Owner Name: Cheryl Wheeler & Cathleen Joyce Location: Swansea, Massachusetts Average Peak Sun-Hours: 4.51 System: Solar pool heater

System Size: 9 Aquatherm 1500, 4 x 8 ft. collectors Average Daily Production: 0.2 MBtu per day during summer (58.6 KWH)

Cheryl Wheeler Cathleen Joyce

Cathleen Joyce and Cheryl Wheeler enjoy sunny days for more than just one reason: a solar pool heating system (above) extends their swimming season and a solar hot water system (below right) heats household water.

Installing in the Northeast

PV and solar thermal system siting, design, and performance issues in the Northeast can vary greatly by location, as the terrain includes coastal plains in the east, and the Appalachian range and foothills in the west. PV mount design should take into account high coastal winds and special wind regions: canyons through which wind may be funneled at high speeds, and the upper reaches of isolated hills and ridges.

Heavy snow loads typical in higher altitudes or caused by lake-effect snows will require consideration. Roof-mounted systems installed at very low tilt angles may need to be hand-cleared, or will suffer decreased output until the snow melts. In snowy regions, pole-mounted systems should be designed to keep the lowest modules out of the snow.

As with other structures, ground-mounted systems must take into consideration the depth of the frost lines to avoid frost heave. And the subsoil rocky ledge of western New England may require "pinning" or other special installation methods for pole and ground mounts.

Finally, all PV systems must use durable materials that can withstand the elements for 25 years or more, especially the corrosive effects of salt air near the coast. Your local installers and the manufacturers of system components are excellent resources for dealing with special considerations in your climate.

When folk singer Cheryl Wheeler and her partner Cathleen Joyce built an in-ground saltwater swimming pool, they wanted to heat it with solar energy and extend their swimming season. But they had already filled the south roof of their barn with a 4-kilowatt PV array, and no other south-facing roof space was available. That called for innovative problemsolving from the installers. The barn's shallow-pitched north-facing roof offered a solution. The unglazed collectors were mounted at a low pitch on the roof, and still produce a significant amount of hot water for pool heating. The pool's filter pump circulates pool water to the collectors, where it is heated before its return trip to the pool.

Over the years, Cheryl and Cathleen have become strong proponents of renewable energy and often promote its concepts to concert audiences. At home, both walk the walk by driving Toyota Priuses, and relying on a PV array for electricity and a solar thermal system for water heating. Cathleen says that "the pool heating system has met all of our goals," with the pool easily reaching the preset temperature of 88°F on sunny days. Although the temperature drops on cool mornings after the cover is taken off, water coming from the collectors arrives 8°F to 10°F hotter than when it leaves the pool, allowing them to extend the swimming season by eight to twelve weeks each year.

Jon Sharp and Ray Furse are regional managers for SolarWrights, in Saratoga Springs, New York, and Litchfield, Connecticut, respectively. Robert Chew is the founder and president of their employee-owned RE firm, based in Bristol, Rhode Island. ^

How Far Off The Grid Are You?

Antarctica is the coldest continent on the planet. 98% of it is covered in ice. With no permanent human population, only the toughest plants and animals are able to survive the cold. And the same goes for your batteries. So when a government funded agency needed to deploy a photovoltaic system for monitoring land mass movement in this harsh environment, they chose Deka Solar Batteries.

Whatever the demands of your renewable energy application, Deka Solar Gel/AGM or flooded batteries are the proven choice. As the world's largest and most technologically advanced single-site battery manufacturer (including our own state-of-the-art, E.P.A. permitted recycling facility), we exceed the high standards of the solar industry with superior quality and environmentally conscious battery solutions.

No matter where you are, depend on Deka Solar.


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