Planned Panels Would Double Tompkins Solar Electricity

Solar Tompkins is aiming to double the amount of solar-panel electricity that Tompkins County homes and small businesses generate...

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By Andrew Casier, via the Ithaca Journal, 05/27/2014

An artist's rendering shows the proposed Cornell/Distributed Sun solar array that would be located on Snyder Road in the Town of Lansing.
 

The new systems would have a total generating capacity of about 2.36 megawatts, Solar Tompkins Program Director Melissa Kemp said. The program is promising reduced pricing on the solar panel systems.Solar Tompkins is aiming to double the amount of solar-panel electricity that Tompkins County homes and small businesses generate.

“Part of the way that this works, getting low-market pricing, is that we’re reducing the cost of acquiring customers for our partners,” Kemp said. The solar panel systems are priced around 20 percent below market rate, she said.

Solar Tompkins launched its program at a Tuesday morning press conference. The group is looking to enroll more than 300 Tompkins County homes and businessesfrom yesterday to July 31.

Astrum Solar and Renovus Energy are each contracted to install about 1 megawatt of the solar panels, meaning solar panel systems on about 260 to 360 homes. Taitem Engineering/ETM Solar Works is contracted to install 360 kilowatts of solar panels, about 45 to 60 homes.

Solar panels generate cost-competitive, environmentally-friendly energy, but they’re not the best starting place for people who seek to reduce their fossil fuel usage, said Guillermo Metz, Cornell Cooperative Extension Green Building & Renewable Energy Program coordinator.

People looking to cut their fossil fuel usage should first consider reducing their overall energy use, Metz said. “Weatherization, air sealing and insulation are where you want to start.”

Heating takes up the most energy used by Northeastern homes, Metz said. “What you want to do is reduce the amount of energy you need to heat your home first, and then worry about how you’re going to heat your home.” He added that there are very efficient geothermal and air-source heat pumps on the market.

After a home is energy efficient, it becomes worthwhile to investin solar power systems, he said. Cornell Cooperative Extension will offer information on increasing energy efficiency at some of the community meetings, Metz said.

People interested in the Solar Tompkins program can either attend the group’s community meetings or go to solartompkins.org.

“We ask people to enroll, and all that means — there’s no obligation — it just means, ‘I’m interested,’” Kemp said.

Tompkins County facilitated a $80,000 grant that the Park Foundation awarded to Solar Tompkins. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and Sustainable Tompkins also support Solar Tompkins.

Tompkins County Legislature Chairman Mike Lane, D-Dryden, said that people across the county have heard about global warming, and they want to help make a difference.

“What better way to do that than with the installation of solar, or other renewable energy things, that will mean we don’t have to have so many power plants?” Lane said.

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