Bringing Down The Cost Of Solar Power

Oct252013

Bringing Down The Cost Of Solar Power

 

solarTwenty four people met Tuesday to band together to bring down the price of solar power.  Solarize Lansing is the town's version of Solarize Tompkins SE that last year successfully arranged for almost 300 households from three Tompkins County communities to form a solar-buying club, promising a number of orders to bring the price down for each individual.  The Lansing group hopes to go in with an expanded Solarize Tompkins group on solar electric installations this year and place its own group order for solar hydro installations.

"We've been hosting a series of meetings for getting community owned renewable energy going in Lansing," said Sustainable Tompkins President Gay Nicholson.  This week's meeting was the third in a series she has hosted in Lansing.  "Last year Caroline, Danby, and Dryden pooled their efforts and signed up close to 300 households signed up for solar hot water or solar electric or both.  I know that at least 100 of those households have sites that are good for solar and are under contract and moving forward."

This year the county-wide collective is planning a larger solar electric group purchase by includng all Tompkins County townships and communities, but Nicholson says that if Lansing people are interested in solar hot water installations in their home they will have to band together separately to get that, at least this time around.  She said that because of the nature of hot water installations she does not anticipate that the price will be much different than if a larger group were involved.  But savings on solar electric installations could be significant.

Three and a half years ago Nicholson installed solar electric panels on her Ludlowville house.  While she paid about $8 per watt because of available grants, the average price across the state was $10 per watt with about a ten year payback period (where savings equal the cost of installing the equipment).  By comparison, she says that the buying club approach may bring the cost down to about $3.50 per watt, and with higher grid energy costs today the payback period would likely be shorter.

solarize_octmeeting24 Lansing and Southern Cayuga residents met to help each other bring down the cost of solar energy installations for their homes

The first meeting attracted 31 residents, who watched portions of a documentary, 'Empowered', about the renewables revolution in Tompkins County made by Solarize Tompkins board member Shira Evergreen.  The second meeting featured Solarize Tompkins SE members, who talked about their experience and successes last year.  This week's meeting focussed on organizing groups of people who will recruit new members to raise the number of installations and thus lower the cost for each one.

The group hopes to have its first major informational push on election day, stationing members near each Lansing polling place to try to drum up more interest.  Nicholson says the timeline calls for bids to go out next April, and notes that Lansing residents may be at the front of the line to have solar installed because it is organizing sooner than some other local communities.

"It's a long journey that we're going to be on to ween ourselves off of fossil fuel," she said.  "I know many people here in Lansing and Tompkins County are interested in banning hydro-fracking.  You can't really ban hydro-fracking in good conscious without making a serious effort to not need shale gas.  That's part of the work here -- shifting our energy systems together and nudging the process along and helping each other."

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The waterfall at Ludlowville Park was used as a backdrop by Wharton Studios in silent movies

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