Taking A Shine To Solar Power, At Home And Work

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Environment

David Currier is all in on solar power at home (above) and at his Orleans Bowling Center.  ED MARONEY PHOTO

ORLEANS David Currier is in the midst of having solar panels installed on the roofs of his business and his home.

“Electric rates aren't going down,” the owner of Orleans Bowling Center said last week. “Those big companies don't like making less money.”

Currier, who's also a selectman, is working with BlueSel Solar to realize his dream of generating his own power. He grew up with one of the company's sales reps, Justin Reichers, who suggested a commercial array at the lanes. When Currier heard what he considers the favorable terms, “it didn't take me long,” he said, to inquire about putting panels on his roofs at home as well.

“This is the first commercial job we've done in Orleans,” said BlueSel Solar director of business development Rob Rollins. The company, with offices in Sandwich and Woburn, has put panels on the Provincetown Inn and the Sandcastle in that Outer Cape town. They've solarized residences in Orleans and other Cape towns.

In addition to generating power from a renewable resource, solar arrays are encouraged by federal and state incentives. On the commercial side, according to Rollins, there's a 30 percent federal tax credit in the first year, “if you have the tax appetite to take it. Most businesses do. If it's a million dollar job, that's $300,000.” Additional federal incentives, including a depreciation bonus, could help cover a total of almost 50 percent of a system's costs, he said.

Then there's the state, which has obligated utilities to purchase an amount of renewable energy for their portfolios under 20-year agreements. “Many times, the incentive itself per kilowatt hour is more than what [a business] is paying for the utility rate,” Rollins said. “They're offsetting more than they're paying.”

Depending on how a commercial system is financed, he said, “there's four to six years for payback, and then they own the system.” Rollins said the panels supplied to his company are warrantied for 25 years and can last up to 40.

Residential installations are eligible also for the 30 percent tax credit, said Rollins, but not the depreciation bonus. Under state law, utilities enter into 10-year contracts to purchase the power generated by residential arrays. Rollins said the payback on residential systems is “a little longer, five to eight years. Then you own it.”

“We don't have one solar customer that calls us after and says they're not happy,” said Rollins. “They're very happy they're generating their own power, that they made a decision to buy an asset.”

“It's the least sexy buy for the money,” Currier said with a smile, indicating that a boat would be a little more exciting. That said, he's hoping for an estimated $600,000 in savings at the bowling alley over the next 25 years.


Charging Ahead at Town Hall – and Elsewhere?

In other renewable energy news, the town is planning to set up a charging station for the municipality's electric and hybrid vehicles behind town hall and is considering locations for public charging stations in town parking lots. The cost of two stations, up to $10,000 each, could be covered by the state's Green Communities funds for which Orleans recently qualified.

“You own two parking lots downtown that are paved,” Town Administrator John Kelly told the selectmen Aug. 7, referring to Canal Road and the corner of Old Colony and Main. “The only other ones are the unpaved lot at Depot Square and the strip behind Orleans Cycle that runs along the bike trail. With Old Colony and Main, keep in mind that we have a five-year moratorium, state-imposed, on digging up the road. Getting electricity into that location may be more difficult than on Cove Road behind the community building.”

Building and Grounds Manager Ron Collins had concerns about Cove Road. “It's not accessible,” he said. “The slope of the parking lot is pretty extreme. The sidewalk on Cove Road is not acceptable.”

Given that locations with chargers have to be striped, Selectman Cecil Newcomb suggested paving and striping the Depot Road lot. Selectman Mefford Runyon agreed that site was preferable to either Old Colony and Main or Cove Road.

There would be a charge for using the systems. Provincetown charges a quarter for every 10 minutes of use, 24 hours a day year-round.