By George Harvey
Kevin Bailey started working in the renewables industry in 2005, when a chance encounter got him a job as an intern with David Blittersdorf installing solar equipment. After three years learning about solar installations, grid-tied systems, off-grid systems, and more, Bailey began his own business. Originally called Sycaway Solar and Wind, the company was incorporated in 2011 as High Peaks Solar. Over its history, High Peaks has had spectacular growth.
Needing a good sized building for his business, Bailey started with a building that had previously housed a carpet business. The downstairs became the home of his business, and the upstairs was fitted out to be an apartment for his family. This was gutted for an energy-efficient retrofit. It was super-insulated with spray foam. Twelve inches of insulation went into the roof decking. The walls got seven inches of foam in the open cells in the walls in the upstairs, and five inches of closed cells in the downstairs block building.
The old gas boiler in the building was removed. The first floor got two Mitsubishi mini splits, and the second floor got two ducted heat pumps from the same manufacturer. When extra or backup heat is needed, it is supplied by a Harmon pellet furnace from Best Hearth and Fire, a local business. Last winter, the 6,000 square foot building needed only three tons of pellets.
The hot water supply is provided by another heat pump from Stiebel Eltron. This unit reduces the need for electricity for water heating by 75% from what it would be with a conventional electric resistance unit.
In addition to these efficiencies, lighting is supplied by LEDs from Phillips.
The building has two grid-tied solar systems. One is six kilowatts, for the commercial side of the building. The otheris four kilowatts for the apartment.
Efficiency and energy work did not stop with the heat and electric power. Bailey was also interested in making sure the carbon footprint is reduced for the vehicles used for his business. The trucks for the business are powered by biodiesel, using the highest percentage of waste cooking oil available – usually, that means 99%.
Power tools used in the field by High Peaks are solar powered, wherever possible. The three trailers used for on-site work are their own microgrids, powered by photovoltaics with backup power from four batteries of six volts each, delivering about four kilowatt-hours.
For Bailey’s next step, he is looking forward to using electric vehicles. He wants to put an electric charging station on the side of the building and make it available for other people to use.
Bailey says, “We are committed to renewable energy plain and simple, love doing it, and hope to do it for a long time.” The commitment that he has clearly kept in his own business and home is also obvious anywhere he has done work for others. He has done many installations of solar, ranging from small, off-grid cabins to large tracking arrays for farms and businesses.
High Peaks’ showroom in Wynantskill, New York, is set up to provide an educational experience for visitors. There are numerous examples of working equipment in the showroom, along with a large number of catalogs. This was done so visitors can understand which solar equipment will help them best.
One more note we should make is that Kevin Bailey’s work is not all about profits. In 2006, he started a non-profit organization, The Sky is Not Limited. This organization has worked to install nine wells in Tanzania since 2011, and has two more under construction. Bailey asks us to remember that there are a billion people in this world who have no access to clean water.
High Peaks Solar is at 180 Main Avenue Wynantskill, New York. The web site is highpeakssolar.com.