EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI), a TCCPI member, recently brought on line a new 50 KW solar panel array, significantly lowering the co-housing community's carbon footprint. After 18 months of planning and construction, the array will meet 60% of the electricity demand for the 30 homes within EcoVillage's FRoG neighborhood (First Residents Group), thereby avoiding 250 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Smart metering allows residents to monitor daily energy use and track energy usage over time, helping them to conserve energy.
The $275,000 PV installation and smart metering system were financed by interest-bearing loans from residents and will be paid off through regular monthly charges for electricity. With the help of tax incentives and a rebate from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the system cost only $88,000.
Residents pay the same or less than they would have on their utility bill, but now much of the money stays in the local community. The cost of the system will be recovered in 12-15 years, at which point "our neighborhood cooperative will own the system outright," says Liz Walker, executive director of EcoVillage.
The second largest PV system in Tompkins County, its construction created four full-time and four part-time jobs. The project faced some unexpected challenges, including bad weather. Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee hit after construction began last fall, making the ground too muddy for pouring concrete needed to anchor the system and delaying completion for three months.
"This project is a great example of what a small group of motivated people can accomplish together to live more lightly on the planet," observes Walker. "The beauty of this example is that it shows that with enough hard work and creative thinking, renewable energy can become accessible to many more people without breaking the household budget."
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