By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth’s surface each hour is enough to power worldwide energy needs for a whole year, according to Michael Carney, a member of the town’s Sustainabilty Committee.
This panel encourages residents to increase recycling and adopt alternative energy sources that do not pollute the environment.
“Now homeowners can tap into this renewable resource with updated technologies that can save energy and lower utility bills,” Carney said.
One such technology is the photovoltaic power system. These systems use panels to capture solar energy to make direct current electricity, which is then switched into usable alternating current power through an inverter.
As a result of net metering, photovoltaic systems feed the electricity produced into the utility company grid, literally running the meter backwards and lowering the producer’s electric bill, Carney said. If the system generates more electricity than is used, this is credited for future use during winter when the photovoltaic system produces less.
Residential solar systems are also becoming more efficient and less costly to install, according to Carney.
Since 2011 alone, installation costs have dropped by 60 percent, he said. In 2008, the photovoltaic system cost around $9 per watt. Today these installation costs hover slightly above $4 per watt and continue to drop, Carney said. On average, residential systems produce 5 kilowatts, which translates into $20,000 to acquire a system, he said.
“With very generous state and federal financial incentives, homeowners can expect to see installation costs paid for in five to six years and negligible electric bills starting as soon as the system is operating,” Carney said. “No money down leasing arrangements are available as well. Installers provide a warranty guaranteeing 20-plus years of production.”
A state Departtment of Energy Resources video at http://www.mass.gov/eea/energy-utilities-clean-tech/renewable-energy/solar provides more information. Reputable solar installation companies can be found on the Mass Clean Energy Center website: http://www.masscec.com/content/finding-solar-pv-installer.