A Commercial Solar Electric Power System In Action

If you want a unique, pleasant, environmentally sound experience, visit the 1880 inn we found that has completely converted to a photovoltaic solar power system. Andy and Barbara Seaman are the progressive thinking and environmentally concerned owners of a 16 room inn in Spring Lake New Jersey. Worried about global warming and the legacy they are leaving their children, the Seamans took advantage of New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program. This innovative initiative provides funding for both commercial and residential solar power systems. The Seamans installed a series of roof top solar panels that not only supplies all of their electricity needs but feeds unused power back into the state grid.

Financing A Commercial Solar Power System

The process wasn’t cheap, but the return on investment, the cost savings and the reduction in greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming are substantial. The solar power energy system equipment and installation cost around $75,000 and the state provided a grant for more than half the cost. But the savings didn’t end there. There was a federal tax credit, credit for the sale of excess electricity and cash back from the company where they purchased the system. The Seamans expect to break even in a few years and to make money after that. They are already planning to expand to a wind and solar power system in the future.

The Huge Effect of Spring Lake’s Solar System

The beneficial effect on the environment is significant. The firm that put in the system, Renewable Energy Concepts, estimates that over a 30 year period the Seaman’s solar power electric system will save 619 barrels of oil, be the equivalent of 541,344 miles of automobile travel not used, reduce acid rain emissions by more than a ton, reduce green house gases by 216 tons and be the equivalent of planting more than 1000 trees. That all adds up to doing a lot to help stop global warming while reducing resource use!

Inspiring Others

The Spring Lake Inn is the only completely solar powered inn in the area but others are intrigued and are investigating commercial solar power systems for their businesses and guest visiting the inn are considering home solar power systems. Anyone concerned about the environment can’t help but be impressed. This 127 year old inn is a delight in its own right but the fact that it has become a leader in solar power makes it even more special. The inn is spotless, attractive, has an interesting history and is located in a village of multi-million dollar homes, tree lined streets, wonderful restaurants and it is one block from a huge unspoiled beach. Each of the 16 rooms is unique and the breakfast included with your room is varied and delicious. Andy took time to explain the solar system, show us the installation, the photovoltaic cells, the bi-directional meters and answer all of our questions. Not only did we enjoy our stay, but we came away determined to get into solar power too. Anyone can set up their own solar power system. From a purely financial point of view, the most appealing aspect is locking in your cost of power over the long term.  In a future energy crisis you would be immune from the cost increases if you have a solar system.  This is great news for those who anticipate or are already living on a fixed income.  With a solar electricity system, even as electricity costs increase, home and business owners will not have to worry about increased utility bills. In addition, there are several studies that indicate every dollar saved on your utility bill with a solar electric system will increase your overall home value by twenty dollars. It is estimated that $1,500 in annual electric bill savings from solar will equate to $30,000 in additional resell value.  In today’s increasingly tight housing market, a solar electric system helps set a home apart from the others in the neighborhood.  A home with a fixed electric bill from solar power is “cheaper” to live in, and thus is very appealing to potential buyers.

The Details of Spring Lake’s System

The Spring Lake Inn has about 40 photovoltaic solar panels on its roof and two bi-directional meters in the basement. The panels are unobtrusive and the whole thing was installed in about 2 days. A good rule of thumb is to allow 100 sq. ft. of roof space per every kilowatt (kW) of electricity the system produces. A typical residential solar electric system will require approximately 300-500 square feet. Most businesses and homes are able to purchase a solar power system thanks to the incentives and aid offered by the federal government. In several states residents that install these systems are also eligible for rebates from their local energy company as well as certain federal tax credits. A home solar power system will also significantly reduce monthly utility bills. The average six-cent price of a solar kilowatt hour is less than half the average 14.5 to 15-cent rate of a utility company’s power rate. You can expect to pay back the price of the equipment within five to six years.

Why You Should Switch to Solar Power

You can:

  • Reduce your electric bills because you no longer need to purchase as much power from your electric utility.
  • Further reduce your bills through net metering, which credits you for any surplus solar electricity generated by your system.
  • Stabilize your electric costs.
  • Enjoy an uninterrupted supply of electricity during power outages, if your system design includes batteries.
  • Benefit the environment because solar electric technology generates electricity without producing any emissions.

You can learn more about building homemade solar panels if you want to get started really cheaply.

Not Ready to Take the Plunge?

You can significantly reduce your impact by switching to solar power, but maybe you are not yet prepared to take such a big step. Even if you aren’t ready to take control of your home’s power you can still make a difference. You have the ability to put an end to climate change. Find out how. By John Towler, Ph.D.


The Spring Lake Inn The Interstate Renewable Energy Council New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program REC Solar Renewable Energy Concepts

Author: Brown, Nathan. A Cooler Climate, 2008.

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