Dave Enos has been interested in solar energy ever since he took a class in alternative energies at Needham High School. That was about 35 years ago, and Enos has turned his passion into action.
First he and his wife, Suzy, purchased a circa 1875 home at 43 Hillside Ave that they knew could be upgraded for numerous energy efficiencies. Then they built a new, 1,300 square-foot, three-bay garage/accessory apartment on the back of the home and had 10 kilowatts worth of solar panels installed on top of the addition.
Now Enos is using his knowledge of solar electric installations – also called solar photovoltaic or “PV” electric systems – to help other Bedford residents and small businesses in town. He has volunteered to serve as Bedford’s “Solar Coach” for the new program, called Solarize Mass, which will bring solar energy systems to Bedford through a tiered pricing structure that increases the savings for everyone as more homes and business owners sign up. The program operates through a grant to Bedford and Lexington.
Solarize Mass – Public Meeting in Lexington on January 29
The first meeting for residents and businesses from the two towns to learn how to save in solar energy installations will be held Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 7-9 pm in the Cary Memorial Building, 1625 Lexington (next to Lexington Town Hall). Some car-pooling will be available to local residents from members of Transition Town Bedford (TT Bedford), the Bedford group that prepared the town’s grant application, by contacting Enos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enos was one of the grant writers, along with Suzy Enos and Tom Bigda-Peyton, who received the Selectmen’s unanimous support last October to participate in the second round of the state program, after submitting a petition from TT Bedford, local churches and other supporters.
The Jan. 29 meeting in Lexington will be run by solar experts from the MA Clean Energy Center, who co-sponsor the Solarize Mass program with the MA Dept. of Energy Resources, Green Communities division. Information will be presented explaining how solar panels work, what State and Federal incentives are available to save on the installation costs, and the specifics of the Bedford-Lexington program.
The program will end on June 30, 2014, so all contracts have to be signed by that date; installations can continue for a year beyond the signing date, Enos said.
Solar Coach Enos explained that the state program will enable Bedford and Lexington residents and small businesses interested in installing solar panels to achieve discounts due to the group purchasing aspect of the program. Seven installers submitted proposals to be selected by Enos, Bedford Recycling Coordinator Gretchen Carey – the Bedford’s project manager for the program, and their counterparts from Lexington. “This is more installers than bid on any other town’s program, ensuring a great discount for Bedford and Lexington,” Enos added.
“It’s beneficial to have an installer that has been vetted by the state,” Enos said, noting that random solar installers are starting to go door-to-door in Bedford, trying to take advantage of the publicity generated by the Solarize Mass program. “Having a vetted installer should provide a greater level of trust and assurance to those signing up,” he added.
Enos said the installer will be selected in mid-February, and will be available at a second public meeting in Lexington, this one at the Cary Library in Lexington from 7-9 pm on Feb. 24. Enos anticipates that enough people will sign up in Bedford and Lexington to be eligible for “Tier 5” pricing, and noted that all the pricing offered by the seven vendors is better than the pricing offered to the communities selected by the state for the first round of the program back in 2012.
Enos further explained that, if a Bedford resident or small business is interested in the program, the first step brings the installer to the house or business. The installer’s crew will get up to the roof level and use a Solar Pathfinder to check for tree reflections and the angle of the roof towards the optimal south-facing area – best for sun collection. If the measurements indicate a better-than-80% opportunity for collecting solar energy, that homeowner will be eligible for a State rebate ranging from $1,000-$4,000, Enos said. If not, the installation price is still very competitive, he added.
There also may be an opportunity for residents whose roofs are not conducive to solar panels to purchase solar energy via a local “solar garden,” Enos said. Only one of the seven vendors has proposed to build such a facility, but Enos said that, because there is strong support for such a facility, it could be built in the future through a partnership between the Town, NStar, or other private entities.
‘Walking the Walk’
Enos and his wife know how advantageous solar energy can be; their 10 kilowatt system, built to accommodate both their antique home and their new addition, has twice the number of solar panels needed to provide electricity for most single family homes. The system provides electricity at no cost to the Enoses and even sends them checks for S-RECS, which stands for Solar Renewable Energy Credits. This is a state program that allows utilities to make up their mandated renewable percentage by “buying” the right to say they made green energy.
Their installation costs will be paid off in six to eight years, when all their home’s heat, hot water, electricity and electric car charging will be free. Since they installed their solar panels about two years ago, the Enoses have generated over 12.7 megawatts of energy, have not paid an electric bill, and are running a credit with NStar.
The Enos family designed their addition – an accessory apartment over a new three-car garage, to maximize energy efficiency. The walls in the addition are 16 inches thick with 40R insulation, twice the 20R required under the state’s “stretch code” for new construction. Besides keeping the new addition toasty warm, this wall thickness results in “great window seats,” according to Suzy Enos.
The Enoses also installed an 80-gallon hybrid water heater with a built-in air-source heat pump using electricity generated from their solar panels. The apartment is heated and cooled with an air-source heat pump. When they are ready to renovate the antique house portion of their home, they will move into the accessory apartment and install additional insulation under the roof and in exterior walls, and convert the old heating system by air-source heat pump in the old house. Removing the old, exterior asbestos shingling will be included in their renovation, Enos said.
More information about the Solarize Mass grant program is available from Enos at 781-275-1802 or email@example.com and on the Solarize Mass website, www.solarizemass.com.