D350 Solar Project

To the editor:I am writing in response to the October 4 article entitled, “Solar Panels: Are they worth the costs?” As the owner of the solar panel that was the focus of the article, I’d like to quickly clarify a few of the points made. A large emphasis was placed on the financial cost of the system. The article was correct in saying that I’d never be able to pay back the cost of my investment – unsubsidized solar projects at the present time are not cost effective. However, to look at the project solely from an economic perspective would be to overlook its entire purpose. I am not trying to generate cheap electricity, rather I’m trying to educate others about renewable power through the construction of a small scale system. In that sense, the panel was been extraordinarily effective thus far in raising awareness about the accessibility of alternative energy. Perhaps those who have become comfortable with solar energy during their time at UVM will be more likely to invest in it when they own their own homes, or support projects for to generate renewable energy.The issue of the energy used to produce and ship the solar panel was also mentioned. I purchased the panel from one of the closest retailers that had the products I was looking for, located in New Hampshire. While the solar panel may not directly produce enough energy to offset the energy used in its production for some time, it will do so very quickly indirectly. When living with a small scale renewable energy system, one has to conserve as much power as possible – although the panel is small it has put my energy usage into perspective – when you’ve spent time constructing a system that produces 20W an hour, the waste produced by leaving the lights on is magnified to a much more personal level. Even with large scale residential solar systems, conservation is a cornerstone when trying to live off renewable energy. Since having the panel, I’d estimate I cut my electricity usage at least 40% by doing everything from watching my power consumption to air drying my clothes. When the indirect savings is taken into account, the environmental return on investment is much greater than the energy produced by the panel itself.The D350 Solar Project cannot be looked at in isolation – the production of clean, renewable energy is only one aspect of the project and the environmental benefits are much farther reaching than it may initially seem.Ross NizlekClass of 2009