At Windblown Cross Country Ski Area the energy footprint has always been kept to a minimum by heating with wood, building with timber cut from the property and the least amount of machinery possible for trail grooming. In early November, a “barn-raising” solar installation was held at Windblown, in New Ipswich, New Hampshire (US) where a group of local residents got together and installed a 20-panel solar array. By adding solar owner Al Jenks said he’s letting skiers know that Windblown is doing all that it can to reduce its already low carbon footprint.
In less than two hours, the group of 8 people had the solar panels installed and each connected to a power optimizer. This step of the installation was made much easier because Jenks had previously built a frame and mounted the rails and 20 optimizers that would be connected to the panels. This is the second such solar installation undertaken by this group in New Ipswich, and they plan another in the area in the near future.
The learning curve
What was the major obstacle in this do-it-yourself installation? Jenks said it was the learning curve of figuring out exactly what he needed, plus the “tremendous amount of paperwork required.” He conceded that it would be far simpler to hire a solar installation firm to handle the paperwork, line up an electrical contractor, arrange the local inspection as well as the final connection to the grid. But being a true Yankee, Jenks opted to tackle the project himself, with the aid of 7 friends for the final install.
After much study and discussion with friends with similar installations, Jenks selected the components. He got prices on a traditional solar racking system, but because the site sits on rock ledge, he found that he would have to spend about $3000 to drill down into the rock to install the footings. And that was on top of the $2000 estimate for the racking and didn’t take into account the steel pipes that would be set in the ledge. With a background in forestry, Jenks decided to go with what he knows best—wood. He spent about a week preparing the footings and building the frame out of pressure-treated timbers.
Once complete, he installed rails from Iron Ridge, which he said made it remarkably simple to install both the SolarEdge optimizers and SolarWorld 285 Watt panels. The system also has a Midnite Solar disconnect switch and a SolarEdge grid-tied 6kW inverter.
A net zero lodge
The solar installation is expected to produce about 6300 kW of electricity annually, which Jenks said he hopes is closer to 6500 kW. And with a new heat pump providing hot water in the lodge, the two renewable energy sources combined should make the lodge a net-zero building. During the off season, when the lodge is used less, it’s possible that the solar array will generate more energy than is being consumed, which would enable Jenks to benefit from New Hampshire’s net metering policy through which he’ll receive credit from the local utility for his excess generation. He can also sell renewable energy credits (REC) for each megawatt hour of solar produced.
With the 420-mile Northeast Energy Direct (NED) natural gas pipeline planned to cut a swath across Windblown’s pristine land, Jenks said that he and others who have installed solar arrays in the area are sending a message to the larger world that there are other ways to generate the energy they need.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today