Green Alliance home demonstrates synergy between solar, geothermal
Published January 03, 2012
Green Alliance members Ray and JoAnn Whitley install solar panels on their Salisbury, MA home to power the electrical components of their geothermal heating and cooling system.
When Ray and Joann Whitley installed a geothermal heating system in their Salisbury, MA home two years ago, they were thrilled to eliminate the cost of heating oil from their budget.
“While our electric bill did go up because the geothermal back up is an electric fan, it only went up about a third of what we had been paying for oil for the year,” according to Joann.
“We decided to go ahead and install some solar panels on our garage to offset the electrical cost of running the system,” Ray chimed in.
The Whitley’s contracted ReVision Energy, a renewable energy company with branches in Maine and New Hampshire, to install their new solar photovoltaic system.
“ReVision Energy frequently installs photovoltaic systems to complement geothermal projects, combining the best of both worlds: free heating and cooling from the Earth retrieved using electricity generated by the sun,” explained Fred Greenhalgh, Online Marketing Manager & Sales Associates for Revisions Energy.
The move shaved $375 off the cost of the project because the Whitley’s are members of the Green Alliance, a community of local green businesses working together to provide information and discounts on sustainable products and services to consumers who pay just $35 a year to join. ReVision Energy and Ultra Geothermal, the company that installed the Whitley’s geothermal system, are among the Green Alliance’s growing family of close to 100 certified green businesses and over 2,800 consumer members living in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
“We received our Green Alliance membership as a gift from Melissa Aho at Ultra Geothermal,” Ray said. “We are going to renew this year.”
“I always love to hear from folks like the Whitley’s who are using their Green Alliance membership to buy local, go green, and save money,” said Green Alliance Director Sarah Brown from the organization’s office in downtown Portsmouth, NH. “Ray and JoAnn’s home shows just how far renewable energy technology has come in freeing New England homeowners from the burdensome costs associated with fossil fuels.”
A federal tax credit for renewable energy and a solar power rebate program offered by the State of Massachusetts also helped to bring the project’s cost down to a point where it fit the couple’s budget.
“If they didn’t have the rebates we couldn’t have afforded to do it,” as Ray put it.
The Whitley’s decision to go green was rooted in part in their shared concern about global warming.
“I’m retired, but I was a science teacher for 24 years,” Ray said. “I taught Earth Science at Triton Middle School in Byfield, so I am very concerned about the carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere.”
Geothermal also proved to be practical replacement for the home’s aging heating system.
“We were using oil,” Ray recalled. “The situation was that the oil furnace and the tank were both getting old and we were concerned about leakage, so we took them out.”
“A friend of ours had installed geothermal, so we inquired and got interested,” he said. “We ended up going with it.”
Two years later, the couple has nothing but good things to say about the system.
“It does an excellent job,” Ray said. “The system is totally clean. We have one filter that we have to hose off twice a year. Nothing that’s going to create a mess like oil sometimes does.”
“It’s very quiet,” he added. “It comes on and off and your not even aware it’s running.”
“Whether we are calling for heating or cooling, it is instantaneous and extremely quiet,” Joann agreed. “We were a retro-fit, not new construction, and Darren at Ultra Geothermal was very creative in how to best run the duct work. He did a superb job.”
“Another benefit of the geothermal is that it provides us with central air, which is a real bonus,” she said. “We have a bungalow and before the geothermal, it was so hot in our upstairs that we couldn’t use the rooms in the summertime. Having the geothermal installed opened up our whole house.”
“Ultra Geothermal also tied in our hot water heater to the system so that in the summer, we don’t pay to heat it at all,” she noted.
The Whitley’s are already pleased with the performance of their new solar photovoltaic system.
“We’ve had it about a month in operation, generated about 500 KW/hrs on the panels,” according to Ray, who has made a hobby of monitoring the system’s energy production.
“Even today we are generating about 25 KW/hrs, with just 9 hours of sunlight on a good clear winter day,” he noted.
Still a teacher at heart, Ray is more than happy to share his knowledge of renewable energy.
“Japan and Iceland use geothermal from the plate tectonics,” he said. “All you need is groundwater with a temperature around 60 degrees. We have two wells in the backyard, around 4 inches across and 300 feet down. That’s where all the action is. It’s buried 5 feet down so you don’t even see the wells at all.”
Of course, Ray’s appreciation for renewable energy isn’t strictly rooted in science.
“It’s nice to see the oil trucks drive by and not have to stop,” he said with smile.
Learn more about ReVision Energy, Ultra Geothermal, and the Green Alliance by visiting: www.greenalliance.biz