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Largest Solar Array in Butternuts

Scot Lueck’s family’s ground and roof-mounted solar array in Butternuts, N.Y. Photo: Tammy Reiss

Scot Lueck’s family’s ground and roof-mounted solar array in Butternuts, N.Y. Photo: Tammy Reiss

By Green Energy Times Staff

Scot Lueck wanted to have his own solar photovoltaic (PV) array for a long time. This January, he finally saw his wish come true. His PV system was installed, with a capacity planned to supply slightly more power than he and his wife use together.

“Ever since I was a teenager I wanted to use renewable energy,” he explained. “My wife and I have never been wasteful. This played a part in the decision.”

The 13.7 kilowatt array has 54 panels, with 28 on the ground and 26 on the barn roof. He laughed when we asked why they were installed that way. “My wife wanted the panels on the roof. I wanted them on the ground.” Live is full of compromises.

Some things are not compromises, however. The Otsego Electric Co-op, which supplies the couple with grid electricity, has no net metering and has not developed a policy that favors renewable installations by homeowners. The result of this is that Lueck buys electricity from the co-op at full retail, but when he has excess power, the co-op will only pay a standard wholesale rate for it. Please note, this is not the spot rate for instant power, which can be high; instead, it is a standard rate that would appear on long-term contracts, about a third of the retail rate.

Lueck said he will take the matter up with the co-op. While it is true that the co-op has to bear the expense of maintaining transmission infrastructure, it is also true that other electric power companies do a good deal better for customers. Many electric providers have yet to sort through the problems that have risen because consumers are becoming what is called “prosumers.”

One of the ETM solar installers in the man-lift carrying the last of the panels to the top of Lueck’s family’s barn in Butternuts, NY. Courtesy photo.

One of the ETM solar installers in the man-lift carrying the last of the panels to the top of Lueck’s family’s barn in Butternuts, NY. Courtesy photo.

His dream of having renewable power fulfilled, Lueck says he would like to see his next step be to get batteries, so that he can be entirely independent of the grid, if that becomes necessary. This is not because he wants to disconnect, but because he wants to have a secure electric system. This makes a lot of sense, considering that a solar array will not provide useable electric power when the grid is not operating, unless there is a storage system in place, with the components necessary to operate independently of the grid.

The system was installed by ETM Solar Works, which is a company with a story worth telling on its own. ETM was founded in 1988, making it one of the older solar installers. It is also a woman-owned business. Its president, Dr. Gay E. Canough, was one of the founders of the New York Solar Industries Association.

ETM originally worked doing aerospace consulting for organizations like NASA, but in 1993 started applying its skills on its home planet in the backyards of citizens. Since that time, the company has installed over two megawatts of solar systems. Dr. Canough has also taught scores of courses on solar installation.

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