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Residents gather for a solar ‘barn-raising’ event

Peterborough solar installer Greg Blake teamed up with Will Wildes, master electrician from Temple, to lead a barn-raiser solar PV installation at a home in Fitzwilliam on June 14. It was a dream come to life for Paul Harris when 15 volunteers from across the region arrived at his home at 8 a.m. to join several of his friends and family members for coffee and breakfast before they all launched into helping him install an array of 26 solar panels on his steep 45-degree roof.

The installation was coordinated by Dwight Schenk of Rindge, the Solar Committee chair of Monadnock Energy Resources Initiative. As a local grassroots nonprofit organization involved in making renewable energy and weatherization projects more affordable by inviting local volunteers to both assist and learn from professionals, MERI had previously organized barn-raiser solar hot water installations in Temple and Dublin. The Harris installation was their first volunteer-assisted professional solar PV, whole house electricity project. For more details, see www.monadnockenergy.org.

The volunteer labor by folks from Hancock, Peterborough, Nelson, Temple, Jaffrey, Rindge and Keene was not only rewarding and exhilarating for them, but produced a substantial discount for the price of the project.

Solar PV prices have also dropped significantly in the last five years, while the efficiency of the panels in collecting the sun’s energy has increased. Add to that, the federal tax incentive of one-third off the projects’s cost and the rebate from the Public Utilities Commission for a commercial property (the property is rented out during the summer), and the cost of the Harris project was decreased to where the expected payoff for the system came down to just five or six years. After that, it will produce clean renewable electricity at virtually no cost for years to come.

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