When Morrisville State College automotive professor Steve Law bought his 13-acre property near campus 20 years ago, he asked students in the college’s structures classes to design a south-facing pole barn where he could one day install a solar energy system.
This week, students in the college’s Renewable Energy Training Center visited Law’s home to help install a 7-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof of the barn, working alongside professional contractors from Arista Power to gain first-hand work experience.
Law is among two dozen homeowners in Madison County who signed up to install solar panels this summer through Solarize Madison.
So far, the installations total more than 150 kilowatts in capacity – exceeding the total amount installed in Madison County over the last eight years.
The program is the first of its kind in New York state, and was modeled after a similar group-buying program in Portland, Or. that planted 120 residential solar installations in six months and led to other similar initiatives across the country.
Madison County officials announced the program earlier this year, and offered a $2,000 incentive to the first 15 residential installations through a grant from the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board and the Central New York Climate Change Innovation Program.
The program has been so popular that organizers have extended a Sept. 30 sign-up deadline, in hopes of bringing on several more participants.
The Solarize program is designed to help those interested in installing solar panels overcome financial and logistical roadblocks. Group purchasing helps bring down installation costs, while project organizers offer assistance with site assessment and design, financial services and installation.
Law said he researched his solar energy options for years, but could not make the $42,000 system financially viable.
After the $2,000 grant from the county, the volume pricing available through Solarize Madison and state and federal grants and tax incentives (including a $10,500 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), Law expects the price tag will be closer to $7,000 – or $1 a watt.
Law said the 28 panels will save him about 53 percent of his annual energy costs. In the summer, he expects the panels will produce enough electricity to exceed his needs.
“We should be putting electricity back onto the grid, which will offset the winter months,” he said.
He expects the system will be paid off within eight years, which coincides with his plans to retire.
Local officials are already talking about repeating the program next year.
“The community has really wrapped its arms around this program,” said Morrisville State College student Jan Myers, who brought the idea to county officials last year.
Visit http://www.solarizemadison.com to learn more about Solarize Madison.
As part of the American Solar Energy Society National Solar Tour, Solarize Madison will host a tour of four homes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 6. Self-guided and bus tours will begin at the Madison County Office Building in Wampsville. To reserve a spot, visit www.ases.org tour or all 315-366-2376.
Article by Alaina Potrikus, The Post-Standard