The Oxbow Veterinary Clinic in Bradford, VT recently installed a solar system at its clinic, after years of discussion with Green Energy Times (G.E.T.) publisher Nancy Mallery. Mallery is a client and has been giving Dr. Christopher Spooner copies of G.E.T. for the office, always with a copy left just for him. Spooner also gets a good look at a neighboring 100% solar-powered business, North Country Organics, every day on his way to and from work. Another neighbor is ARC Mechanical, which specializes in air-source heat pumps. So the local peer pressure is considerable and going solar is something Dr. Spooner has been interested in for a long time.
Mallery entrusts the care for her Newfoundland dogs to this local veterinary clinic. During a visit this spring, she was met with a surprise. “I was unaware of the new solar system until I stopped there this past spring. As I was about to leave, Chris came running out saying, ‘I knew I would see you at some point. I have been waiting for you to come by. Come, follow me, I have something to show you.’ He took me to the side yard and pointed my attention to look up. Lo and behold I saw the roof full of solar!”
Oxbow Veterinary Clinic is located in an old train station and has retained the historical look of the building while making many energy-efficiency improvements. Finally, this past winter, the time was right, and Oxbow installed a full roof of solar. The 8.5kW system was installed by O’Meara Solar of West Topsham, VT. The array is comprised of twenty-seven 315W all-black Hanwha QCELL modules and a SolarEdge Inverter and optimizers. Electrical work was performed by the Eastman Electric crew from Pike, NH. The array has produced 3,661kWh in 2020. It was installed in July 2020. The array offsets increased power usage due to the addition of two new exam rooms and an enlarged waiting room constructed in 2019. The fluctuations in size and equipment make the electricity usage a bit difficult to track, but certainly the new solar panels are making a strong contribution.
The location for the array was chosen based on the best solar location. Darren O’Meara, the installer, said, “The low sloped roof is the most southerly and will produce more than any other available surface. Grid-tied arrays produce most of their power outside of the winter months. For grid-tied arrays, most of the time we are optimizing for maximum yearly production.”
How and why did Oxbow Veterinary Clinic go solar with all of the efficiency improvements? Here is how Chris Spooner described it, “When we first purchased the clinic, the windows were old single-pane windows with storm windows, and there were large spaces for heat to escape between the foundation and the rim joists. The building was cold and drafty.
The focus was to improve energy-efficiency, so we began with replacing the windows with double-pane Anderson energy-efficient ones. And work was done to seal the places around the foundation that were open.
Then we had an energy audit done to see what the recommendations were. After that, the spray foam insulation in the basement and the blown in cellulose insulation in the attic, roof and knee wall were done. Then we installed LED lighting. Once we had maximized the efficiency of the building, we invested in the heat pump units and solar in order to reduce our carbon footprint.
Information provided by GET was helpful in making this decision, as well as visiting other area businesses and seeing solar in use.
A USDA Rural grant helped offset the cost of the heat pumps and energy-efficiency rebates from Efficiency Vermont helped to offset the cost of the LED lighting.
Last year, we replaced two old surgery lamps with new LED units. In 2019, we replaced an old water heater with a new heat pump model.
We are now considering having back-up battery storage installed and looking into other options to add more solar, potentially with an off-site program as our options for solar on site are limited.”
Now that summer is here, Nancy Ditcheos of Oxbow added, “The cooling from the heat pump units is great. It works much better and is quieter than the old window units.”
Along with the efficiencies installed in recent years, the array makes Oxbow an even cleaner, greener place for pets.
The practice is owned and operated by Christopher G. And Aimee C. Spooner, both licensed D.V.M’s. A third veterinary joins the team of at the clinic, Virginia T. Prince, D.V.M. They are located at 272 Depot Street, Bradford, VT 05033. Learn more at www.oxbowvetclinic.com.
Jessie Haas has lived in an off-grid cabin in Westminster, VT, for 37 years. She is the author of over 40 books for children and adults, including The Hungry Place.