There are three listings in the Southeastern Connecticut Yellow Pages under “Solar Contractors.” There are 876 approved applications to date for rebates under the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund program, for a total connected capacity of 4 megawatts. That will power 8000 small houses during peak daylight hours, if it all gets used efficiently. For a few hours on the sunniest days. There is one photovoltaic installation within easy driving distance of my home in North Stonington. The Connecticut Clean Energy Rebate program is shut down until July of 2010 for “financial review.”
Solar is not setting the world on fire here in Connecticut, is the point. The approved leasing program that allows homeowners to join the energy revolution does not convey the tax credits and rebates available to those buying their equipment. You just get to sell the power back to the grid, defraying your power bill by a fraction, depending upon your usage. Oil is cheap, to those who have any money at all, and the outcry for alternative energy sources is down to a murmur, mostly heard from the same folks who have been calling for change since Jimmy Carter funded the first rebate program for solar in the 70s.
If solar power, both for hot water and electricity, is to catch on in the mind of the public, we need a consciousness-raising experience, preferably several.
So how about small solar that you can give Dad as a Christmas gift, a kit of panels, inverter and batteries that he can assemble in the garage or basement, set out in the back yard, and start calculating the incoming watts from the sun? You can’t hook these small kits up to the grid, for many reasons, but you can run a light or two, power a tool, charge the battery on the car, operate landscape lighting, or operate a decorative fountain pump. Use your creative side here.
These links to various vendors who package and ship the equipment, with many disclaimers, right to your door. Target has kits on the shelf. One of the vendors linked above will sell you a kit to power the whole house, even go on the grid if all your permits are lined up. The amounts of power are tiny, ranging from 10 to 75 watts per hour, but the principle is real, and the operation is only a scaled-down version of huge systems sitting on commercial and residential roofs where public conscioiusness has been raised already.
Perhaps we ony need to toy with these concepts for a few years before we’re ready to accept the value of photovoltaics as significant contributors to Connecticut’s energy picture. Perhaps a science project or two will get us into the game, or at least thinking in the right direction. Read the instructions, be very careful, and let me know how it turns out…..