By Isabel Braverman October 22, 2014 — ELDRED, NY — The brutal winter of last year and its associated heating costs is one of the things that inspired Charles Petersheim to install a solar …
ELDRED, NY — The brutal winter of last year and its associated heating costs is one of the things that inspired Charles Petersheim to install a solar panel system at his business, Catskill Farms (www.thecatskillfarms.com). Petersheim began Catskill Farms in 2002, a business that designs, builds and sells new cottages, farmhouses and mini-houses in the Catskills. Petersheim’s business model is based on sustainability, and all of the homes the company builds are insulated with spray foam, and often include sustainable features such as an on-demand water heater.
The office of Catskill Farms used to be the Eldred Central School District’s bus garage, and Petersheim recycled materials to turn the building into an office. This can be seen in some parts of the structure where there are different-colored panels, and in the bathroom where there are different tiles. Elements of the bus garage are still intact, such as the bus lift. The old fiber-glass insulation was removed and spray foam insulation was applied. The next step was solar panels.
Petersheim hired Gordon Smith of Renewable Energy Solutions in Hankins (www.r-e-solutions.com) to install the panels. The process includes first looking at the past two year’s electric bills to figure out how much electricity will be needed. The company performs a building estimate and establishes a price. Next, they talk to New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), New York State Electric and Gas Corporation (NYSEG), and the building inspector to get approval. After that, the panels are mounted, which took place two weeks ago. Petersheim said the building was coincidentally facing south, the perfect orientation for solar panels.
The panels are from Canadian Solar. There are 40 310-watt panels and they have a 25-year guarantee. Petersheim said they will soon install an electronic board in the office to display how much energy they are saving, like the one used in Times Square to display national debt. The panels will offset electricity costs for the year, and will be paid off in four years.
How do solar panels work?
A solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels actually comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells. (Photovoltaic simply means they convert sunlight into electricity.)
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