I was at the kitchen table stewing over a pro-nuclear op-ed in the Concord Monitor when Judy said it was time to leave for Beth and Ruth’s solar open house on the other side of town.
Beth and Ruth have an impressive homestead with a big garden, a healthy looking flock of chickens, and two solar arrays on their rooftop. Yesterday’s open house was put on by the NH Sustainable Energy Association and ReVision Energy.
ReVision’s ambition is to “transition away from fossil fuels and get solar on every rooftop,” said Heather Fournier, who explained how Beth and Ruth meet all their year-round hot water and electric power needs from the sun.
Kate Epsen, Executive Director for the Sustainable Energy Association, used to work at the Public Utilities Commission, where she became familiar with incentives for solar. Those include rebates from the state and tax credits from the Feds.
There’s a few ways to hook up a solar electric system. You can go totally off-the- grid, like our friend Fred. But he needs batteries to store electricity and a generator for back-up. If you don’t want to go that route, you can hook up to your local utility, with a meter that runs in both directions. If you generate more than you use, you can either sell it back to the power company or use the grid, in effect, like a storage battery. That’s what Beth and Ruth do.
Beth said she was looking forward to watching their meter run backwards, but because it’s electronic it doesn’t really work that way. This time of year, she said, they generate more electricity than they use, and currently have 2 1/2 months of power in the bank. (In other words, if the sun stopped shining tomorrow, they could go for 2 1/2 months without paying a dime to the electric company.)
ReVision is in business to design and install solar hot water and electric systems. Heather Fournier said they can also help consumers figure out the state and federal incentive systems.
The Sustainable Energy Association, on the other hand, is an educational organization that also also pays close attention to public policy. Kate Epsen said this year the Association supported HB 306, a bill this year to develop a state energy strategy. The study will be under the direction of the NH Office of Ene rgy and Planning.
Knowing that neighbors are getting most of their energy from the sun made it easier for me to return home and write a letter to the editor in response to the pro-nuke op-ed. The column’s writer, who happens to be Concord’s mayor, has signed up as a member of a self-described “grassroots” group funded entirely by the nuclear industry and promoting nuclear power as the answer to problems associated with fossil fuels.
But even if the nukesters had a solution for the waste problem (they don’t), and even if they could be trusted to keep reactors from spewing radiation (they can’t), nukes are not the way to deal with climate change. As my friend Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear said, they’ve gone from being perceived as “too cheap to meter” to being too expensive to matter. Meanwhile, solar is becoming increasingly competitive. That’s where the future lies.