NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- A local couple is hoping a new, innovative, Vermont-made product will help boost solar energy in Bennington County.
Karen Lee, who along with her husband Jim owns Solar Pro in Arlington, said she has partnered with AllEarth Renewables to offer its AllSun Tracker solar electric system to residents and businesses in the Bennington County area.
The system uses GPS and wireless technology to follow the sun throughout the day, which can boost solar energy production by as much as 45 percent more than roof-top installations, according to AllEarth Renewables. The system can produce most of the power used by an average home in New England.
Lee, who moved to the area with her husband in 2006, said she researched various businesses after settling in. Her interested in solar energy drew them to launch Solar Pro in 2008, but not without some hesitation, she said.
"Quite frankly, I was a little skeptical, coming from Florida, about the benefits in Vermont," Lee said. "I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that the sun shines sufficiently in Vermont."
Lee said she wanted to begin offering the tracking system in the area after viewing an AllEarth Renewables map showing where the systems have already been installed. New England is peppered with about 1,000, she said, but none were in Bennington County.
"If you look at the map, Bennington County is empty. I thought, ‘We need to fill that up,'" she said.
Lee said the system shifts throughout the day to capture as much of the sun as possible. "It takes advantage of the sun's rays from sun up to sun down every day at the optimal angle."
The system even inclines or declines depending on the season to continue energy production throughout the year. Additionally, the system, which is mounted on a pole, is wind resistant. It has sensors that tells it to lay flat when the wind picks up too much. It can also sense the weight of snow, and will tilt itself and move around to dump snow off.
"It's absolutely ingenious, the design of it," Lee said. "It is exciting that the most innovative, revolutionary solar tracking system was designed and manufactured in Vermont."
Lee said the first system in Bennington is being installed this week.
The basic system carries a steep price tag of about $35,000. But Lee said there are tax credits and incentives at the state and federal level. The federal government provides for a 30 percent tax credit, meaning 30 percent of the cost can be deducted from one's income taxes owed the next year.
The state of Vermont offers a 10 percent cash rebate, she said.
"The entry level can be overwhelming for people that initially look at it, but if you look at the overall dollars and cents, it does make sense," Lee said.
Electricity generated by the system can also be fed back onto the grid and sold, according to Lee.
The tracking system takes about two-and-a-half days to install. Permits take four to six weeks to obtain, Lee said.