solar serendipity

Last week, I got a message on my answering machine from someone who is interested in purchasing solar panels in a community solar array with Renovus. Because we already own panels in a prior community solar installation with them and had agreed to be contacted, Renovus had given my name and number to a prospective solar customer.

I returned the call and had a lovely conversation. Of course, we started talking nuts and bolts about community solar, but then went on to talk about our all-electric Chevy Bolt, environmental issues, and living in the Southern Tier/Finger Lakes region.

We discovered that we both have connections to the Berkshires of Massachusetts and that we are both writers, although she has had a long career in writing and teaching and I am only recently (and lightly) published.

Now, we are friends on Facebook and perhaps, one day, will meet in person – brought together by the sun.

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Solar!

I am pleased to announce that in late December, our household went solar!

Thanks to a change in the New York State laws, community solar projects were finally allowed in 2016 and we jumped in as soon as practicable.

We had had our rooftop evaluated for solar panels previously, but the south side of our house is too shaded. The shade trees help to cut down on air conditioning costs in the summer, so it would have been counterproductive to cut them down in order to put up solar panels. Also, some of the shade is supplied by trees in our neighbors’ yard, so we wouldn’t have been able to cut those down.

We had hoped to be able to join a community solar farm in our county, but Tompkins County was able to get permits and leases in place sooner, so we decided to go with Renovus in Ithaca, which is the home of T’s alma mater, Cornell University. Here is a short video of the final installation process a few weeks before it went online:  

(There is a lot of mud in the video, but it will be seeded in the spring.)

We own twenty panels in the array, which is in Trumansburg. Being a part of a solar farm does have some advantages. The panels are commercial grade, so their production is higher than residential panels. They can be optimally oriented and angled for catching the most sunlight. Also, if we move to a new home in our area, we can continue to use the credits from our panels. Alternatively, we can sell them, either to new owners of our home or to anyone else in our area.

It was nice to have the panels go online before the end of the year, as we will be able to apply for tax credits when we file our taxes.  It’s not optimal for solar production, though, with daylight hours so short. Still, we will get some reduction in our electric bill for the winter and spring. By summer, we will be able to start building up credits in our account to cover for the lower wintertime production next year. Our array is sized to cover our annual household usage, so it will all average out once we get through this initial low-production period.

Until we get an electric car…

Stay tuned.
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Join us for the last few days of Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/27/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-27th17/ 

jjj-2017

 

Haiti project

In these divisive days around the US elections, I have been clinging to any positive news of people reaching out and offering love, hope, and acceptance. I want to share this story from this past Sunday at my church.

There is a parishioner who co-teaches a service learning course at the local community college. Part of this course is a service trip to Haiti, to a village in the northern section of the island. The church has raised funds and donated materials for the projects on a regular basis over the last several years, so she gives us periodic updates.

The group went to Haiti in October. Because of flooding and hurricane Matthew, the village had endured damage to many of the mudbrick and straw buildings, but other repairs had already been made. The water system that protects the people from water-borne diseases was back in service. The two-classroom school that was part of the earlier iterations of the project had re-opened. Two more classrooms will be added soon. They and the adjoining church, which also serves as a community gathering place, are powered by solar panels and there is enough energy storage to allow the children to do homework at the school after dark, using LED lights. Computers that were donated are part of the school curriculum. There is also a newly-opened sewing school with donated machines that is helping local people learn a useful trade.

Last year, land was cleared for a community garden which grows food for the schoolchildren’s lunch. They had been growing staples like corn and beans which can be dried for later use, as there is no refrigeration available. The community had decided to grow rice as well, which wound up being a fortuitous decision; when the floods came, the rice crop continued to grow nicely and they just had their first rice harvest, with many bags of rice in storage for future school lunches.

The school lunch program is especially important as many of the children will eat their only meal of the day at school.

School costs the equivalent of $25 a year, but that sum is too much for some of the families, so there is a new scholarship fund in place to help more children attend school. There is also a plan to add a kitchen with solar ovens to the school, so that the cooks who make the school lunch can also bake breads and pies for sale to benefit the lunch program.

The people in the village are filled with hope, as they work steadily toward making their lives safer and more comfortable with the help of their friends and partners from our area.

We all need hope. We all need to reach out to each other, to help each other, to recognize that every person has inherent dignity.

Thank you to the villagers in Haiti for reminding me of the power of hope.

 

If we really want to help Ukraine…

I have heard several things today through various media, including this blog post:  http://www.nofrackingway.us/2014/04/22/kerrys-shale-gas-bluff/  about the situation with Ukraine in regards to the dangers of losing access to Russian methane.

If the US really wants to help Ukraine and other European countries get out from under the thumb of Russian fossil fuel threats, it should help them quickly implement alternate energy sources, especially renewable ones. Help fund a transition to geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling. Find appropriate sites for solar and wind electrical production. Local, distributed energy systems will increase economic well-being and alleviate the fear of Russia cutting off Ukraine and, by extension, much of the rest of Europe from methane for heating during the winter.

Earth Day bonus:  It would be a huge help to the climate as we urgently need to stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible.