Monthly Archives: June 2014

For Those With Shady Yards…

The Community Solar array in Rutland, VT.

The 150 kw Community Solar array in Rutland, VT.

The other day I, when I wrote about how it’s “Not So Complicated” for individuals to install solar arrays to power their homes and vehicles, I’m sure there were some readers out there who raised their eyebrows. Some of them must have thought that it can’t be quite as easy as I made it out to be. In some cases it is exactly that easy, but there are exceptions, because there are instances where it would be difficult or impossible to make a solar PV system work. A few of these situations come to mind right away—people who rent, instead of owning their home, or, people that own condominiums. Or, a house on the north side of a big hill (or the south side in the southern hemisphere), or a house with huge trees that shade the roof but that are too beautiful to cut down, or a house with a roof design that doesn’t lend itself well to the installation of solar panels. But, innovation to the rescue—there are new projects coming online that solve these very problems.

In fact, I drive past one of them nearly every day (picture above). It’s called a “CSA”, or “Community Solar Array”, and it was just recently built by NRG, in conjunction with Green Mountain Power (more info at NRG’s Community Solar page). The idea is fairly simple—people who want solar power but choose not to install it on their property can buy a “share” of a large array that is located nearby, and the power that is produced is tied to their house via net-metering. The financial arrangements vary from project to project, but the customer typically either buys a portion of the array outright, or leases a portion of it for a given period of time. In the array above, fifty GMP customers share the power, through a variety of lease options.

So, do you have a roof shaded by beautiful trees? Or do you rent? In more and more locations you can do solar anyway, though your “personal array” might be three blocks away and right next to 49 others. Hopefully, eventually, that option will be available to every utility customer, everywhere.

Leave it a Lawn, Part Deux

fowers 1

Look what pops up when you quit mowing…

Another short post here, a continuation, I suppose, of some of my previous lawn posts ( “A Matter of Perception” , “Leave it a Lawn” , and Mr. X’s humorous “Mr. X on Lawn Care” ). I decided, this spring, that we could get a lot of bang for our buck by mowing dramatically less lawn. The trend here in rural Vermont seems to be to mow an extra strip around the yard every year, until most people, by the time they’re in their 50’s, seem to be mowing five acres of grass every week (invariably while sitting aboard loud, exhaust-belching riding mowers). We could nip that trend in the bud, and save some lawn-care time. This decision was also related to the veritable ocean of beautiful dandelion blooms that filled the yard this spring, right when the bees needed that early spring food—I just couldn’t bring myself to mow them down. And finally, in some burst of Zen or Dao or feng shui inspiration (“Getting My Feng Shui On”), we decided to abandon the old semi-rectangular lawn format, and cut the edge of the much-smaller mowed area into sweeping curves, in free-forms around the house and garden, with adjoining curvy mown paths. (All with the electric mower.) The kids complained that the new plan was ruining their field hockey and football field, but we persisted. The relatives probably also think that the unmowed areas are a bit sacrilegious, but hey, we’re probably already beyond redemption in that department.

I’m happy to report that the results have been absolutely fantastic. After the sea of dandelion blooms turned to wispy seed heads, the newly-unmown areas looked a tiny bit ratty for a week or two, but then other wild flowers just appeared, as if by magic. White clover, red clover, buttercups, daisies, vetch and ground ivy, and flowers I don’t even recognize, all over the former lawn. And, all playing host to a huge number of bumblebees, and honeybees from the new hive.

So, win-win-win. Less work, more flowers, more bee and pollinator habitat, and some curvy spiritual calmness to boot. In the end, worth being an object of suspicion in that all-American quest to be just like everybody else.

flowers 2



Not So Complicated

Castleton charger

The new Level 2 chargers at Castleton State College, grid-tied to a 10 kw PV array.

A quickie post here, in the middle of writing a more complicated one. Today I needed to attend an unexpected event in a town an hour from here, and didn’t quite have enough charge in either of the cars to get me there and back. I went anyway, with the idea that on the way home I would go find the new charger I had read about that has been installed in the beautiful, tiny town of Castleton, VT. Bingo; this worked out perfectly. The installation is an impressive setup. Quite a few chargers are grid-tied to solar arrays, but this one has the array directly behind the charger. It makes for quite a visual statement—there’s no doubt where the power’s coming from, and no doubt what it’s being used for. Sunshine, propelling vehicles. The system was installed, in this case, by Castleton State College (with grants from Same Sun of Vermont, and Green Mountain Power), but here’s the kicker—a system this size would fit on virtually any average-size house, or in any average-size backyard. And, with a system this size, most American households could power their houses, AND an EV. It’s just not that complicated. Other than an inverter, which is about the size of a suitcase and isn’t visible in this picture, that’s the whole system.

So, no thorium reactors needed, no superconductors, no not-yet-invented gizmos. And on the other extreme, no horses and buggies and kerosene lanterns needed, either. Just some PV panels, an inverter, and an EV. Yep, not so complicated.