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Monadnock green group plans home solar installation

Union Leader Correspondent

May 06. 2014 6:13PM

TEMPLE — The grassroots green movement Monadnock Energy Resources Initiative is moving forward with its first home solar installation next month.

“We’re moving forward in a new direction and we’re very excited about it,” said Bev Edwards, coordinator for Monadnock Energy Resources Initiative (MERI).

The group was formed two years ago by members of several Monadnock region town energy committees.

The Monadnock Energy Resources Initiative’s mission is to help people rely less on fossil fuels and reduce their overall carbon footprint, Edwards said. The group accomplishes this through renewable energy installations and low-cost or no-cost weatherization opportunities and training, she said.

“We’re trying to cut costs for people so they are able to switch from burning so much fuel, especially fossil fuels,” Edwards said.

Since forming, the group has already held two hot water heating “barn raising” installations.

These are community building events in which volunteers help install a solar hot water heater and the home owner provides lunch and a promise to pay it forward through MERI volunteer work in the future.

The one-day project requires a group of volunteers and a licensed plumber. After rebates and tax incentives, the project costs the homeowner about $3,000.

Edwards credits the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative for inspiring and training MERI members.

“They started it with neighbors helping neighbors,” Edwards said.

Last week, MERI voted to move forward with a much bigger project, installing solar panels that would provide electricity not just for hot water, but for all the electrical needs of the home.

This project is more expensive and more labor intensive, costing about $7,385 after the rebates and tax incentives and takes several days to complete.

“In seven years it would be paid off and they would have 20-plus years of electricity,” Edwards said. “It’s an awesome deal, if you have $7,000. It’s not for everybody who is struggling on a tight budget.”

The solar photovoltaic (PV) project also requires an electrician and a solar installer.

Peterborough-based solar installer Greg Blake is providing his services at a discount and master electrician Will Wildes has agreed to train for the project.

“We’re in the process of training a master electrician to do solar installations,” Edwards said.

MERI members were hesitant in the past to attempt solar PV projects, Edwards said, however at their meeting last week members agreed the price of solar materials is falling and the Fitzwilliam homeowners who requested their help can afford the project.

“We realized that the price for solar panels has gone down so much, it has plummeted wonderfully,” Edwards said. “People can get more bang for their buck by doing solar PV.”

Edwards said MERI members hope the Fitzwilliam project will be the first of many solar PV installations in the region. MERI also plans to continue to offer the solar hot water barn raisers.

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