GreenStar hosts talks about community solar farming

May 03, 2016 No Comments by

by Gabby Jorio

Unlike a typical sustainable farm that grows crops to sell at farmers markets and grocery stores, an Ithaca community farm is home to a different kind of crop: solar panels.

On Earth Day, April 21, Greenstar hosted a lecture titled “Community Solar Farms: No Roof Needed!” featuring Renovus Solar, the company building these solar farms. A representative discussed the efficiency of community solar farms and how to implement them into people’s everyday lives.

Renovus Solar is based in Ithaca, having moved to their new headquarters last August.

Amanda Postma, a Renovus sales representative, said solar energy systems thrive in New York because it is a progressive state that supports solar through policy and incentives

“Ithaca is wonderful and we’re really proud to call it home because it is a place of early adopters and kind of pioneers in the renewable energy industry,” she said. “It’s been really special to work here and we love our community.”

There are roughly 75 solar professionals working at Renovus and in their 13 years, Renovus has installed thousands of solar power systems in New York.

Postma began the lecture with a basis to understand the science of solar panel systems. She discussed electricity, but more importantly, how people take it for granted.

“When you switch on a light switch, we don’t often think about where did that power really come from,” she said. “What mountain top was blown off to get the coal to make that power? What kind of effects of fracking happened to get that natural gas? And what kind of emissions are happening?”

She explained how electricity comes from the sun, a natural resource. Because the world is becoming an electric one, the sun is not being used to its full capacity.

“We have this huge resource to use and we’re not even capturing a fraction of it. We don’t even need a fraction of it, we need much less. So it’s interesting that we’re constantly going into the ground for our power source here and disrupting a whole lot of things because of it when we actually have these great resource that falls on us everyday,” she said.

Pam Wooster, the education coordinator at GreenStar, and Greg Wooster have been using solar photovoltaic energy for about a year now but installed a hot water system in 2009. They said they are happy with their decision to go solar and that it is an economically efficient system that is also better for the environment. Pam Wooster said the reason they went solar is because their electric bill kept increasing.

“Our electric bill was going up and up and we wanted to have clean energy,” she said.

“And get away from fossil fuels, we’re concerned for the environment and that sort of thing and saving a dollar,” Greg Wooster added.

In addition to building roof solar systems and ground mounted solar systems, Renovus has been building solar farms that make using solar systems efficient for individual homes and businesses with the same solar technology that started being used in the 1970s. Anyone who pays their electric bill through New York State Electric and Gas corporation can participate in the community solar farm. Postma said the solar farm is a practical system.

The solar farm operates through credit, so people using solar do not have to have solar panels on their own property. The panels would be located on Renovus’s community solar farm, and individuals and businesses can connect their electric system to the farm. Because participants of this system wouldn’t have the panels installed on their own property, even if they move a few counties away, they can still participate in the solar farm because Renovus tells the utility companies what the new address is and they can transfer the credit.

“So I often get asked, do we actually have enough light here in our little part of the world to make this viable? And the answer is absolutely yes,” Postma said.

Business, Sustainability

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