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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Solar Solutions for Apartment Dwellers


Hello Everyone!

I have recently been putting in quite a bit of thought to solar power. I'd love to get solar power but I live in an apartment and my options are limited. I have a roof top patio which gets strong sun until the early afternoon and I would like to put a small panel out there. I'm not expecting this little foray to, by any means, provide all the power for my apartment but it would be nice to get some from it. What I am looking for is if anyone has ideas or knows of easy solutions for apartment dwellers to hook up solar power. Basically I'm completely ignorant to how these systems work entirely. Any guidance is a huge help.

Thank you

David

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apartments

This is a major portion of Brattleboro's energy future. Almost half of the town lives in apartments. Even if every single home owner was fully off the grid, we'd only be doing half as much as we could be doing.

There are two types of solar energy to think about - the water heating kind and the electric power kind. Installing panels to reduce water heating costs (or electrical costs) isn't really in a landlord's interest unless they just want to be nice.

Renters might make a little headway with small panels to power some small devices.

Perhaps Vermont legislators should work on some rules and regs for renters to have access to all these energy and money saving devices. Maybe a rule that renters can have access to roofs for panel installation if certain conditions are met, or a mandate that landlords switch to alternative sources of energy (along with grants to make it possible so rents don't go up.)

 
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Solar Options

I was up at the opening of the community Solar Farm in Putney on Friday. This is an initiative where 150 killowatts (150,000 watts) of solar have been installed and people like you, David, can buy panels and get their power from the sun. It's done through a process called net metering where the electricity generated goes into the grid and your account with Green Mountain Power gets credited. If you can front the money for the panels, or even if you need to borrow it, this would actually save you $$ on your power bill. It isn't the cheapest way to go solar, but it's available now and as of Friday there were still 11 panels available to purchase.

Other options will become available in the near future. I submitted a proposal to the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) initiative being hosted at BDCC for a large community solar array for folks in Windham County. My hope is for it to be in the four to six Megawatt range (4-6,000,000 watts), and I proposed that the capped Windham Solid Waste Management District landfill on Ferry Road in Brattleboro be considered for the site. It's perfect for photovoltaic solar as it's big (~30 acres), unshaded, out of sight and can never be used for agriculture. It's a choice piece of solar real estate, though, and there are many competing interests looking at it.

I am also working with a few different landowners and solar companies to develop smaller cooperative photovoltaic projects. If you have an interest in any of this, or in developing solar on your own property, whether it's PV or solar hot water, get in touch with me through my website:
http://HomeEnergyAdvocates.com

Note that insulation and weatherization are almost always more effective, and more cost-effective, than solar for the average building in New England. This probably isn't true for folks who live in apartment buildings owned by the Windham Windsor Housing Trust, though, as WWHT does a very good job of building and maintaining energy efficient apartments.

For info on the Solar Farm:
http://www.vtsolargardens.com/

Tad

 
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Solar @ WWHT

Also note that the WWHT is exploring putting up solar on a number of its buildings. I doubt it will be possible for them to offset the power of all the tenants in any of their buildings, but it could go a long way.

 
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I would have responded

I would have responded similarly to Tad.

Although insulation and weatherization can really do wonders for energy savings, these are obviously not viable options for an apartment dweller - although encouraging one's landlord to take these steps is worth a try.

Nick's project up in Putney is a good way for an apartment dweller to have an opportunity to take part in solar power. I know some folks are turned off by the idea of not actually using the power their panels are generating, but remember even if you have panels on your home/property, you don't use that power either, unless you are off the grid with battery storage on site. And to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't want one of those batteries anywhere near my apartment. I'm building a home right now, and if I were going off the grid with the solar, I'd build an outbuilding to store the battery system.

 
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Some Limitations But Will Work.

I've been using PV panels for several years to power lighting in an out building. In fact the battery in there should've been bad a long time ago but it gets constant charging each day.

You'll need a battery for sure. That will be your storage and "shock absorber". You can use the panel to recharge devices that use 12V to about 14V. Lighting is possible but you'll need to check with your landlord.

I just recently got 2 7 watt panels I use to charge all my small engine batteries. The beauty of these panels is they're only $20 and they won't over charge a battery. Plus they're amorphus panels so they'll charge on a cloudy day.

I also have 2 hot water panels I've been using to help warm my pool and plan on trying to tie those into radiant floor heating in my garage. That's going to take some tinkering but am hoping they'll help reduce my oil usage. If not you just might see them for sale on here. The performance isn't too bad. They're 4 x 10 and are all copper. Very heavy. But I ran water through one into a 5 gal. bucket. In 2 hrs the temp went from 38 degrees to 145. Of course, it's all about BTU's the more water to heat the more you need. Time will tell.

Also go to youtube and search for solar hot air heaters. You'll see some very creative ways of heating rooms with soda can heaters on southern exposed walls.

If I were to build a house now all my lighting would be 12V LED lighting.

 

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