Tompkins Residents Can Get Solar Panels at a Discount

Solar Tompkins aims to double the amount of solar-panel electricity generated in the county, residents encouraged to enroll in the program through July...

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By Andrew Casler, via the Ithaca Journal, 06/19/14

Renovus Energy employees Dakota Potenza, left, and Paul Martin place stakes marking where a ground-mounted photovoltaic solar panel array will be installed.  SIMON WHEELER / ITHACA JOURNAL
Renovus Energy employees Dakota Potenza, left, and Paul Martin place stakes marking where a ground-mounted photovoltaic solar panel array will be installed. SIMON WHEELER / ITHACA JOURNAL

ITHACA — Tompkins County residents are hearing that they can switch to solar.

The Solar Tompkins initiative aims to double the amount of solar-panel electricity that’s generated in the county, and residents are being encouraged to enroll in the program through July.

“Our No. 1 goal is increasing the rate of solar deployment,” Solar Tompkins Program Director Melissa Kemp said at a June 10 meeting in Lansing. More than 60 people attended the event.

Solar Tompkins is selling photovoltaic solar panel arrays around 20 percent below market rate, Kemp said. A typical residential 7,000-watt systemcould cost $6,216 through the program, according to Kemp.

The program looks to reduce the cost of acquiring customers for three solar panel installation companies, named Astrum Solar, Renovus Energy and Taitem Engineering/ETM Solar Works. The savings that installation companies see are passed onto customers, Kemp said.

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/ETM Solar Works is contracted to install 360 kilowatts of solar panels, about 45 to 60 homes.

Tompkins residents and business ownerscan enroll in the program through July 31, and enrollees have until Oct. 1 to decide if they want solar panels installed.

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.

“I would urge anybody who’s interested in the Solar Tompkins program to go ahead and enroll,” said Guillermo Metz, Cornell Cooperative Extension Green Building & Renewable Energy Program coordinator.

Todd Loax of Lansing attended the June 10 Solar Tompkins meeting, and said that he was considering solar electricity for his home. “The price is so relatively low, it’s almost like, why not?” Loax said.

Loax said he has energy-efficient light bulbs in his house, but the building is very old and drafty. “I know I need to do an awful lot, and I will,” he said.

After enrolling in Solar Tompkins, people should get a free energy audit of their home through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Metz said.

“If you’re in an old, drafty house, no matter how much pv (solar panels) you put up on the roof, it’s still going to be old and drafty,” Metz said.

Solar panels aren’t the best way to reduce fossil fuel dependence in every situation, according to Metz. An energy audit can identify site-specific, cost-effective methods for cutting down a building’s carbon footprint.

The energy audits provide suggested measures to save energy and an estimated return-on-investment time line, Metz said.

Tompkins County households earning less than $147,600 a year learn about home energy audits by visiting tinyurl.com/kdq7z9l or contacting Tompkins County Cornell Cooperative Extension at (607) 272-2292.

Weatherization can keep a home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, saving power year-round, Metz added.

Bridget Randall of Lansing also attended the June 10 Solar Tompkins meeting. Randall is interested in reducing her fossil fuels use.

She wanted to be an environmentalist and help save the world when she went into college. “I’m not feeling like I’ve accomplished that much,” Randall said. “The incentives make it real. People can actually do this.”


Solar Tompkins community meetings

People interested in the Solar Tompkins program can enroll at the group’s community meetings or visit solartompkins.org.

Meeting scheduled 7 to 9 p.m. unless noted otherwise.

10 a.m. to noon, June 21 at Lansing YMCA, 20 Graham Road.
June 24 at the West Danby Fire Hall, 1780 Danby Road.
June 26 at the Ithaca Town Hall, 215 N. Tioga St.
June 28 at the Groton Community UCC Church, 204 E. Cortland St.
July 1 at the Dryden Fire Hall, 26 North St.
July 9 at The Space at GreenStar, 700 W Buffalo St, Ithaca.
July 10 at the Speedsville Community Center, 5 Speedsville Common, Berkshire.
10 a.m. to noon,
July 12 at the Enfield Valley Grange, 178 Enfield Main Road.
July 15 at the Franziska Racker Center, 3226 Wilkins Road, Ulysses.
July 16 at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, 301 W. Court St, Ithaca.
July 17 at the Newfield Fire Hall, 77 Main St.

Home efficiency audit- Tompkins County households earning less than $147,600 a year learn about free home energy audits by visiting tinyurl.com/kdq7z9l or contacting Tompkins County Cornell Cooperative Extension at (607) 272-2292.

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.