Grassroots Solar honored with 'Brilliance Award'

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DORSET — Bill Laberge said he hasn't had an electric bill in five years despite running his home and business, as well as an electric car, primarily off of electricity.

Laberge does still use some propane but hopes to remedy that soon.

"My goal this year is to remove fossil fuels from the property," Laberge said.

The owner of Grassroots Solar of Dorset was honored recently by the German battery manufacturer Sonnen Batterie with a 2018 Brilliance Award, which is "bestowed upon thought leaders and innovators who, in partnership with Sonnen," according to the press release.

And Laberge practices what he preaches to customers and has installed solar panels on the roof of his shop and office totaling nearly 10 kilowatts of output feeding a Sonnen battery.

Laberge said the panels produce enough electricity to keep the battery topped off and send power back into the electrical grid where Green Mountain Power credits him toward future bills.

The electric utility does not pay for the credit in cash but pays off any current amount owed and credits extra production to his account toward future bills.

That credit pays off in the winter months when the sunlight isn't as strong thanks to Vermont's location on the globe.

As he describes the system, Laberge's Sonnen battery is reporting that the sun, despite it being an overcast day in early November, is producing enough wattage to handle the demand from his business, from which he is charging his Chevy Volt electric car, and nearby house, and is still uploading 0.4 kilowatts of power back into the grid. A few moments later the sun fights through the morning haze a little bit more and the production being sent back into the system jumps to 1.1 kilowatts.

In addition to the financial benefit, Laberge said the system also provides emergency power back up that would easily last 12 hours depending on how it is configured in the case of a power outage, something Laberge said is happening more frequently as recent storms have proven more destructive to the power grid.

The energy stored in the battery powers his house and shop and by managing the items that are running off the battery can continue to charge the system until GMP comes back online.

The key, Laberge said, is the Sonnen battery systems he installs. He said the Sonnen systems are safer than other batteries because they are lithium iron phosphate batteries and do not contain any cobalt, the element Laberge said makes other batteries susceptible to potentially catching fire, or what Laberge described as "thermal runaway."

"These are really safe and secure," Laberge said. "The technology is really evolving."

While Laberge is installing similar systems to what he has in homes around the area, solar panels and battery systems are being used to power groups of homes in Puerto Rico following the destruction that country has sustained from recent hurricanes.

Laberge has been part of a group that has worked to install solar installations powering homes there and continues to advocate for solar to help that country rebuild its shattered electrical infrastructure.

Sonnen, in the release, said Laberge's efforts in Puerto Rico was partially the reason behind it bestowed the honor on Grassroots Solar.

"As an active advocate for energy storage, Grassroots Solar is creating a clean energy future through extensive homeowner education," the release reads. "This includes advocating with local and state representatives as well as their innovation with projects in Puerto Rico to increase awareness about energy resilience for people devastated by climate disasters."

Laberge said he was honored to be recognized.

"We have worked hard to educate and explain the benefits of solar energy and backup energy storage," Laberge said. "Our work in Puerto Rico on behalf of the hurricane victims shows the powerful difference solar and storage can make in providing energy security."

For more information, visit GrassrootsSolar.com.

Contact Darren at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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