Our Thoughts on Battery Backup

Many people, both existing and prospective customers, have reached out to Same Sun and asked us to install battery backup storage for their solar arrays. While the technology is exciting; everyone wants their solar array to provide power in the dark or during a power outage, we do not recommend this course of action.

Here are a few of the reasons:

  • We Do Not Think the Expense is Justifiable.  Unlike solar, there will never be a return on investment for battery backup. To do it right and have sustained power during an extended winter outage the cost is $25,000 – $35,000.
  • It is Not Environmentally Friendly.  Unlike batteries that power your vehicle thus replacing gas and oil the precious commodities such as graphite, lithium, nickel, manganese, and cobalt will only be used on rare occasions for convenience. Additionally, moving power back and forth from solar or the grid to the battery backup creates a loss of kWhs.
  • It is Not Reliable.  We have installed several battery backup systems, including right here in our own office to test the technology.  In our experience, we have been called upon to service 60 – 70% of these projects. We do not believe this is viable.
  • It May Not be Safe. We have concerns that our state is relying on individual manufacturers’ safety codes. Vermont does not inspect the installs.
  • Battery Lease Programs Disqualify You for Maximizing Savings.  If you are a GMP customer that is leasing your battery or part of their program that uses the battery to mitigate peak demand, you are not allowed to switch to Rate 11, which is the most advantageous billing rate for a solar customer.  See our previously published blog post about Rate 11 here. Also, GMP will be accessing your battery at peak demand times, possibly having it low or drained when you need the power due to an outage.
  • Today’s Batteries May Soon be Obsolete. Soon, there will be a bidirectional charger for all vehicles that will allow you to use your Electric Vehicle as battery backup for your home. The resources used to make car batteries are justifiable because driving an EV directly reduces oil and gasoline production, and lowers emissions.

While we wish that there was an inexpensive environmentally friendly and reliable battery back-up storage – this is not our experience.  If you have frequent power outages or this is a concern for you, we recommend that you have your essential loads placed into a subpanel and then get a conventional generator sized proportionately.

Please Contact Us with any questions.

Should I Wait?

by Philip Allen

Sometimes, Marlene and I are asked if we regret going solar 17 years ago due to the fact that the modules have improved dramatically in both wattage and efficiency. Our original Evergreen Solar modules on our garage roof were made in Massachusetts and are 180 watts and 15% efficient.

Evergreen is long out of business, and if we were to do the roof now, we would use Silfab 410-watt modules at 23% efficiency. So, yes, a new array is better than the old one. But regrets? None. This array started our contribution to clean energy and our small part in battling climate change, and they have paid for themselves in tax benefits and Green Mountain Power credits.

There are some forms of technology where it is wise to wait. Phones, computers, and TVs, for example. They get faster, smarter, and higher in resolution. But solar arrays ARE the power plant that provides all the kWhs for these things. As long as it is powering your home, it is not obsolete. Solar arrays APPRECIATE.

When we installed our first solar array in 2006, a kWh was worth 8 cents; now, it is worth 18 cents. Our arrays are worth whatever the utility is charging. Our three arrays have produced 167 megawatts, that’s 167,000 kWhs and offsetting 83 TONS of carbon thus far. We expect even the oldest to give us another ten years of free clean energy.

At some point, you have to commit to clean energy. We should have all done this 40 years ago, but it is not too late to begin. Will the technology get better? We sure hope so, but your solar array will never become obsolete because it IS your powerplant, just as the grid is not obsolete though it is 110 years old.

On the other hand, the Chevy Bolt in the driveway? We have replaced our EVs three times as that technology gets old, automobiles depreciate, and they lose that new car smell!

Contact Us to Learn More.

News Release: Same Sun Solarizes Whitehall Armory

WHITEHALL, NY – Same Sun of Vermont is pleased to announce that the solar project at the former Whitehall Armory, located at 62 Poultney Street in the Village of Whitehall, is now underway.  A total of 184 solar modules will be installed on the south-facing roof of the main facility, a castle-like structure that was originally built in 1899.

Marlene Allen of Same Sun & Roark Merrill of Winter Fellowship

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Whitehall Armory has housed U.S. Military and National Guard units going back to the Spanish American War.  The 37,000 square foot, brick and stone medieval-style structure sits on Poultney Street near the Champlain Canal, at the entrance to the Village’s historic waterfront. 

“No one who built this Armory is alive now. And the people who did build it would never have imagined that one day it would be solar powered. This is the significance of bringing 21st century technology to a 19th century landmark; you become very aware of the continuum that is our past and our future.” said Philip Allen, owner of Same Sun of Vermont.  

Same Sun Crew Preparing Roof

Vacated by the military in 2009, the property was redeveloped as an Athletic Club before transferring to the current owner, Winter Fellowship LLC.   The solar project was conceived in 2022 as a way to reduce the carbon footprint as well as costs, and a long permitting process ensued that involved approvals from the Village of Whitehall and Washington County, as well as the utility, National Grid.  NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, will provide incentive funding through its NY-SUN program.

Emily Palm-Stikkers, Operations Manager at Same Sun, who shepherded the project through the design phase explained, “Any commercial solar array comes with site-specific challenges that require meticulous planning. Installing one on a 120-year-old historic armory that is the centerpiece of a small town adds even more layers of consideration, partnerships with multiple entities, and technical challenges. Bringing this impressive building up to modern NEC and building code standards, while maintaining its historical charm, has meant that great care and detail have gone into the visible attributes.“

Each year the 59.8kW array will generate 63,000 kWhs of clean, renewable energy to power future activities.

Gov. Hochul at CHPE Ceremony

Whitehall has traditionally been known as the Birthplace of the U.S. Navy, but in the past year has taken on additional significance as a hub in the Champlain Hudson Power Express, an underground and underwater pipeline that will bring 1.25 megawatts of hydro-electricity from Quebec to New York City.  The announcement and ceremonial groundbreaking of this project took place at the Amory in November 2022, presided over by New York State Governor Kathy Hochul.

Same Sun of Vermont was established in 2011 by Marlene Lederman Allen and Philip Allen of Rutland Town, Vermont as a solar sales and service firm. More recently, Same Sun specializes in installations of EV chargers. Headquartered in historic downtown Rutland, Same Sun focuses on customer-driven solutions for the residential and commercial marketplace in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. Contact us at: www.samesunvt.com/contact.

Why Silfab Solar Panels?

Often when choosing a brand, one has to compromise.  I like this, but I’m not happy with that.  I wish features from two different products were available in one product.  Promising technology, but unattractive appearance.   It looks good but it is poorly made, etc. etc. etc.  Imagine if something came along that checks every box, that you could fully endorse with no compromises.  That would certainly be exciting. Well, this is what we have with Silfab.

Silfab EliteTM 410-watt modules are the solar panels for us with no excuses and no compromise.  

Technically Superior

The Elite offers 410 watts at 21.4 % efficiency through Silfab’s proprietary X-pattern technology, which combines an integrated cell design with a conductive backsheet to create a more efficient and powerful solar panel.  

Aesthetically Pleasing

We have never seen a more sleek and elegant appearance than these all-black solar modules. The flare-like patterning with no white backsheet blends with and even enhances our clients’ rooftops and the entire home’s appearance. 

Unsurpassed Reliability

Silfab has over forty years of  solar design and manufacturing experience, beginning in Toronto, Canada with an expansion into Washington State (two existing facilities, and a third announced for 2024).  The company delivers “Buy American” approved PV modules specifically designed for weather conditions in the North American market.

For further peace of mind, Silfab offers two industry-leading warranty coverages: a 25-year craftsmanship warranty and a performance warranty of nearly 83% after 30 years.

American Products, Vermont Jobs

This has been the standard for Same Sun of Vermont since we began in 2011.  It hasn’t always been easy.  Silfab Elite, being manufactured in Washington State, tells our clients many important things. First, we are supporting good-paying American manufacturing jobs.  Some other nations use child labor, prison labor or pay poor wages to their workers. Second, we know that a factory is Washington is living up to high environmental standards, practically non-existent in China and some other countries. American made helps protect us from supply chain issues and like any manufacturing of power providing technology, it keeps America self-sufficient and secure.

Contact Us to learn more!

EV AWAY!

A summary of an EV trip from Rutland, Vermont to Atlantic City, New Jersey and back (with a stop in Brooklyn, NY).

Continue reading

Same Sun Reconnects Rutland Town School

Rutland Town School made a bold move more than ten years ago to build a solar array on their rooftop. The solar array proposed was for 59.8 KW, and it would cost $195,000. Instead of looking for a lease or power purchase agreement that would have yielded a small payback, Rutland Town School funded the array with $97,500 from the Clean Energy Development Fund and a grant from Green Mountain Power for $15,000. 

SPS Crew Tests Modules

The rest was placed on the ballot to allow the school to take a bond for up to $130,000 to cover the balance, plus an independent advisor to shepherd the project. If Town residents approved the bond vote, Rutland Town School would own the array that would produce clean energy for decades and save the school more than a quarter of a million dollars.

For two years, the Rutland School energy committee worked toward this goal, and with public meetings and an aggressive phone calling campaign, the bill easily passed.

Unfortunately, the school board chose a solar company an hour and a half away who decided to outsource the work. The first winter, three panels came off their racks, a nearly unheard-of condition, and other problems arose over the years. Ten years on, the system was so underperforming that the school sought out Same Sun of Vermont’s service division Solar PROforamance Services (SPS) to evaluate the solar array’s condition.

SPS offered three options, and to the school board’s credit, they chose the option that would bring the solar array to full effectiveness and 2022 electrical standards, including rapid shutdown for fire protection. The majority of labor was done over the students February break, as to not disrupt the school day or distract the students.

From Left to Right: Kelly Trayah, Maintenance Director, Rutland Town School, Emily Palm-Stikkers, SPS Operations Director, & Simon Bradford, Bradford Low Voltage

Rutland Town School’s solar array had more than paid for itself before serious problems began. The money paid to re-install the system correctly and up to code will quickly pay for itself in the solar credits the school enjoys from Green Mountain Power. Since the array was commissioned on March 10th, inspected, and left generating on March 18th, it has saved the school over $2000 in the first six weeks.