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Solar Was a No-Brainer for This SunCommon Employee

 
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Libby and Silas in front of their ground-mounted solar
Photo credit: Jenevra Wetmore

Source: Jenevra Wetmore, EAN/Middlebury College Internship Program

Silas and Libby Ratico installed solar before they had even finished renovating their new home– an 1860’s farmhouse. Solar was high on the couple’s list of priorities as a way to save money (and the environment) over the long term.  Silas works as a Solar Home Advisor for SunCommon, Vermont’s largest provider of home and community solar, and he knows the benefits of going solar inside and out. In September 2015, a little over two years after moving in, he and Libby hooked up their ground-mounted solar system and began generating solar powered electricity. Not surprisingly, they chose SunCommon as their installation company. 

Ground-Mounted Panels with a Twist

The roof of the Ratico’s home is south facing, which would have been perfect for a roof-mounted system if not for the dormers on their roof. Because of the dormers, they decided to install a ground-mounted system at the edge of their yard. The system is made of 15 panels, each rated to produce 315 watts of electricity. The entire system is rated to have a 4.7-kilowatt capacity.

Ground-mounted solar panels can be built with solar tracker technology, which causes the panels to tilt, following the sun throughout the day. They can also be set at a fixed-tilt, which means that the installer sets the panels at a certain angle where they will remain. Solar tracking technology captures more energy than fixed-tilt technology, but can run the risk of breaking down. Worried about the reliability of tracking technology, Silas and Libby have found a happy medium between the two options. They have an adjustable ground-mounted system, which means that the panels stay at a fixed angle until the couple moves them. They only adjust the angle of the panels twice a year–once in the fall and once in the spring. For the system to work optimally, the angle of the panels should be 37˚ in summer and 65˚ in winter.

Earning Credits is Money in the Bank

The Ratico’s system not only powers their home, but their guest cottage across the road as well. Still, they always have surplus of electricity– this is even true in the winter! Green Mountain Power, their electrical utility, pays them 20 cents a kilowatt-hour for the excess electricity that they generate. In the summer, when they are generating more electricity, they get about $75 per month in credits, and in the winter they estimate their credits are around $20-30 per month. The installation and equipment cost about $27,000, which they expect to pay off in less than ten years with the savings they get from generating electricity. After that, their electricity will be free. They were also eligible for the 30% federal tax credit, which allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing a solar system on your home from your federal income taxes.

Enjoying the Benefits

Silas and Libby heat their home with both electricity and wood. Now Silas says, “I’m more inclined to use our electric heat because we have solar credits.” They love getting rebates from Green Mountain Power from those credits to apply to the months when they aren’t generating as much electricity.  They also appreciate the 30% federal tax credit that helped bring down the original investment cost, thereby reducing the number of years it would take to pay off their system and start getting their electricity for free. As Silas said, “We decided to go solar because it’s a fantastic investment and fantastic for the environment. We had the means to do it, so we did.” Sounds like a no-brainer.