In the Holiday Spirit of Giving
By George Harvey
Trying to do better with energy, Galen Rhode, owner of the North Bennington Variety (NBV) store, improved the energy efficiency of the property by 20% with help from Efficiency Vermont, but wanted to go beyond that. He considered more efficiency measures, but found that putting money into solar photovoltaics (PVs) made better sense economically. Once he was ready, he invited a number of installers to tell him what they could do.
Bhima Nitta, of Power Guru, always advises people to make their property as efficient as possible before investing in solar equipment. “We take a holistic approach,” he says. “Before we design a photovoltaic system, we help our clients use energy more efficiently.” Rhode found Power Guru’s holistic approach to power was quite amenable to him, and after a good deal of consideration, he decided to have Power Guru work with him on PV installation.
Rhode had a piece of property in North Bennington, Vermont between Route 67 and a railroad track. Its shape and location meant that it had marginal value for any purpose other than for solar PVs. In fact, prior to the solar array installation, the property was just a roadside lot where passers-by tossed litter. Nitta likes to design arrays that are aesthetically pleasing, and conform to the landscape. His goal is for people to say, “That’s natural. That looks like it belongs there.” The appearance of the NBV array was to be a source of pride.
The array consists of 400 panels of 255 watts each, organized into five sub-arrays. REC 255PE panels were used, and there are ten Fronius inverters in the system. Local contractors did much of the work; Matt Morse in Bennington did excavation, and Kenyon Concrete did footings. Mounting hardware is SnapNRack. However, Rhode did much of the contracting himself.
Nitta says that this is Power Guru’s fifth group-net-metering project. “It makes sense for Vermonters who want to get together to enjoy better economics. Many people are surprised to learn that solar is now actually cheaper than the grid.” There are a number of people and organizations involved in it. NBV, of course, is one of them, as is another business in the same building. Rhode also uses the system to supply his home and an apartment.
Interestingly, excess power is not being banked, but is being donated to two nonprofit organizations instead. The nearby McCullough Library is one of these, and another is LakeParan. The amount donated is as yet unknown, because the system was only put into commission in September, and it will only be the excess that is donated.
Making power donations to nonprofits seems to be something many of us might think about. Now, in the holiday season, it would seem to be a natural. But it is a gift that can continue year-round. Whenever it arrives, a gift of electric power is something a poor nonprofit could appreciate.