Saturday October 13, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Brattleboro Climate Protection and the Brattleboro Energy Committee want to help you harvest the sun.

These two entities have planned a free solar workshop in town to help out any homeowners, landlords, small business owners or other residents looking for ways to cut their rising energy bills. The workshop is slated to be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Marlboro College Graduate Center, 28 Vernon St., on Saturday, Oct. 20.

Town Energy Coordinator Paul Cameron, who works with both BCP and the energy committee, said workshop attendees learn the advantages of installing solar hot water and solar electric systems, and about the different types of systems that are available. He said a line-up of installers will be there to give presentations on the different aspects of solar power.

They will also offer real-life case studies of solar installations and to answer questions about solar and its affordability, he said.

The workshop will also feature a presentation by Nick Ziter, of SunFarm Community Solar in Putney. Ziter said his presentation will focus on Vermont’s group net metering laws.

He said the state allows group net metering, which he described as multiple households using the solar electricity from the solar panels on someone else’s home. Ziter said a community of people come to an arrangement to share the solar electricity and split the bill fairly.


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He compared it to community supported agriculture (or CSA).

Ziter said he is starting a solar farm with a 150-watt solar panel that allows community members to invest in the project and then receive a credit for the solar power on their electric bills. Ziter hopes to serve 25 Vermont homes and is currently looking for subscribers.

He also plans to host a similar presentation on this subject matter at 7 p.m. at Putney Public Library on Thursday, Oct. 18.

Other workshop presenters and installers will include Southern Vermont Renewable Energy, Integrated Solar, Solar Source of Keene, N.H., and Co-op Power, of Greenfield, Mass. Cameron said BCP has been hosting workshops regarding various kinds of renewable energy over the past 10 years. This is the fourth solar workshop of its kind, he said.

Cameron said water heating is the second-largest energy expense in Vermont homes, accounting for 15 to 20 percent of a typical household’s annual energy use. Solar hot water systems can reduce annual hot water heating costs by 50 percent or more, while cutting carbon pollution by more than two-and-a-half tons.

"Solar just makes a lot of sense, economically," Cameron said in a telephone interview.

He said solar hot water reduces dependence on more expensive, imported fossil fuels, and is applicable to many types of houses. It has been used successfully all over the world for more than 30 years, Cameron said, adding that the quality of solar hot water is the same as water heated by any other means.

"I live in an apartment building (that uses solar hot water) and I can’t tell the difference," he said. "Some people think here, in Vermont, we’re too far up north and that’s really not true at all. We get enough sunlight that it works very well."

Solar hot water can provide more than 70 percent of our hot water needs, he said.

Cameron mentioned the cost of installing solar electric systems has decreased dramatically in the past two years, and is now competitive with solar hot water.

The workshop is free and open to the general public but there is a limit of 60 participants. Registration is required. To sign up, contact Cameron at 802-251-8135 or pcameron@brattleboro.org.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.