Roof-top technology has far-reaching impacts

Peter Clark, executive director of Tampa Bay Watch, is torn between the benefits of solar power.

[easy-media med=”4599″ align=”right” size=”300,300″]Is it a cost-effective way to save up to 85% of the organization’s annual electrical consumption, so that more funds can be dedicated to restoring Tampa Bay?

Or is it more important that Tampa Bay Watch reduces its carbon footprint by more than three million tons over the next 25 years, an impact equal to planting 36,000 trees or offsetting 3.3 million miles driven in the average car?

Either way, Tampa Bay wins with the installation of the 54-kilowatt system on Tampa Bay Watch’s service learning center and along its south-facing roofline.

“The price for solar power has plummeted,” Clark notes. “Five years ago, we looked at a 24KW system that cost about $250,000 but this 54 KW system was just $142,000.”

Costs, however, can be widely divergent and Clark said that researching potential installers’ backgrounds is critical. “We had one bid submitted solely on the basis of what the contractor could see from Google Earth.”

The most challenging part of installing the system may have been qualifying for Duke Energy’s SunSense rebate program. “It’s first-come, first-served with a very limited number of rebates available,” Clark said. “We’d been told we had 40 seconds to finalize the application but our browser wasn’t working. It took us 16 minutes to get through – we were all pulling our hair out until we finally got it in.”

Working with contractor Brilliant Harvest in Sarasota, Tampa Bay Watch designed its service learning center specifically to catch the rays of the sun. Part of the original building also faces south, so the system now provides most of the power needed to cool the building on hot days.

“They even have a website that tracks our wattage in such detail that you can see when the meter is running backward and we’re selling power to Duke or when a thunderstorm passes over and we’re buying electricity,” Clark said.

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