Trevor Mance of Pownal, VT has always considered himself “the ultimate environmentalist.” This led to starting a business, TAM Waste and Recycling, when he was still in high school. As a 17-year-old, he couldn’t legally own a corporation, so his father had to be president for a year, but at 18 Trevor deposed his father and took over. Twenty-three years later, his business has grown from 60 stops on a Saturday, to a fleet of 40 trucks handling 50,000 tons of waste, 8,000 tons of recycling, and a large compost yard.
Mance wanted to “go solar” for years, but the time was never quite right. At one point a few years ago, he made the choice to ‘go down the composting path’ for environmental reasons. But with the recycling market in the doldrums, solar became imperative both for environmental reasons and to reduce costs. When TAM built a large building to house a tip-floor, they also did the engineering necessary to make the roof strong enough for an array. The extra cost was small, so they went ahead. Two more years passed while they applied and re-applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant. When that didn’t come through, Trevor went ahead and self-financed the project.
To design and install it, he turned to Bhima Nitta, of Power Guru Electric Systems in Bennington. Nitta, a native of India, came to this country in 1987 for graduate school. He worked in the chemical industry for years but had a growing longing to do something for the environment. He moved to Vermont in 2008 and began his solar business with a small installation on his own garage. From a slow beginning of a couple of installations a year, his work increased steeply, and he now averages fifty a year.
For TAM he installed a 92kW array of 288 Hanwha modules, 144 SolarEdge optimizers, and one 100kW SolarEdge inverter. The project had to move quickly so the credits could apply to TAM’s 2018 bottom line. Nitta “went on a war footing” with a crew of eight people, including two designers. As the installation had been long-planned, TAM had the net-metering registration and certificate of public good in hand. The installation took two months and went live on schedule, around the 20th of December. Through group net-metering, the output will be split between TAM’s Pownal and Shaftsbury facilities. It should supply 90% of the electricity the company needs.
Most people don’t realize, Mance says, that recycling uses a lot of energy, starting with the trucks. “We use a boatload of power, just plugging our trucks in.” Each block-heater uses 15000 watts, and, in the winter, they all need to be plugged in to be ready to roll in the morning. Though Nance has worked hard to stagger the load and minimize the time each truck is plugged in, it still amounts to a lot of electricity.
Recycling itself is also energy-intensive. TAM has a monthly electricity bill of around $2600. That’s something Trevor Mance thinks about a lot–the many elements of our personal energy footprints, including the power used by the stores and factories that provide us with goods and services. To understand our true impact on the environment, we have to become informed consumers. People in the Bennington area can feel good knowing that their waste, recyclables, and compost are being handled by someone with decades of practical concern for the environment.
Mance is a believer in rooftop solar, yet on a 38-foot-tall building, his array has received little public attention. Mance would like his customers to feel good knowing that not only are they recycling, but that the power needed is coming from the sun.
Jessie Haas has written 40 books, mainly for children, and has lived in an off-grid cabin in Westminster West, VT since 1984, www.jessiehaas.com.