|Ray Furse, partner with James LaPorta|
of Litchfield Hills Solar
Thanks also to the people who actually installed it: James LaPorta, my partner and project engineer, Ronnie Lizana, lead installer, and Mark Lenz, Chris Harrington and others from Lenz Electric, David Hampel in sales, and especially Patrick Grahan of the Wisdom House staff, who did much of the prep work, fortifying the barn structure and trenching. But mostly, thanks to all of you, the utility rate-payers of our state, for the .00444 cents per kilowatt hour you have paid to help sponsor it.
I’m sure most of you know this, but I’ll explain the system briefly: The panels are made up of wafers of silicon crystals, assembled in sheets, and mounted in frames. Photons from the sun, which are electrons in the form of light, bombard the panels, where they cause other electrons in the silicon to move, so current begins to flow. This is direct current, like from a battery, which is taken to inverters, located in the ground floor of the barn, that change it into the alternating current that the facility can use. That current travels via an underground conduit back to the utility room in the main building, where it joins with utility power to be used in all the buildings.
I have to confess that a “switch-throwing celebration” is not all that exciting an affair. In fact, we turned on the inverters when I started talking, but it actually takes five minutes or so for the system to test itself before it begins to produce electricity. When it does there won’t be any lights or bells or whistles. There are no moving parts and no skilled operator required; the system will simply wake up in the morning and put itself to sleep at night, quietly transforming energy from the sun into clean renewable electricity for the next three to four decades. It will produce well nearly $300,000 dollars worth of electricity over its warranted lifetime of 30 years.
To return to your .00444 cents per kilowatt-hour contribution: This is what we, Connecticut ratepayers, contribute in what is called a “Public Benefit Charge” on our electric bills, and is the ultimate funding source for the Clean Energy Fund and projects like this.
In these politically charged times, there is a big debate about what government can do and what private enterprise can do best. I would suggest that the generally strong state support of renewable energy in Connecticut has meshed well with private and entrepreneurial interests and is having a huge payoff.
The CCEF can provide you exact figures, but I can tell you from an installer’s point of view, interest in solar is strong, inquiries and installations have increased steadily over the past five years, and most of all, awareness of conservation and renewable energy possibilities have increased exponentially.
This has produced remarkable and measurable results. Installation cost has come down, from around $9 per watt five years ago to about $6 per watt today. When we started there were a handful of qualified solar installers in Connecticut; today there are over 60. And responding to the more attractive US market, foreign makers of solar panel manufacturers have moved in. MAGE, the German manufacturer of these modules, has now opened a plant in Dublin, GA, that employs 350 people. Next time, we hope Connecticut.
Finally a new Energy Bill, signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy July 1 of this year, promises sustained, long-term support of energy conservation and renewable energy programs in our state, with a view toward cleaning up our air, reducing our collective carbon footprint, weaning us from foreign energy sources, and reducing energy costs for rate-payers. So again, thank you all, or perhaps let’s all thank each other, for ensuring a bright future for solar in Connecticut.