Written by J. James Joiner for the Barnstable Patriot
CCTC monthly event shines light on local solar provider
The Cape Cod Technology Council chased away the winter blues with solar warmth on their monthly First Friday event Jan. 7 at the Hyannis Golf Club.
After introductions, a buffet style breakfast and “business as usual” banter, the keynote speaker, Luke Hinkle of My Generation Energy, took the stage.
My Generation is a solar installation and development company based in Brewster. The name comes from “my generation’s legacy, or lack thereof,” Hinkle said.
Hinkle, who moved to the Cape in 2001 as a high school teacher, holds a doctorate in physics from Penn State.
“People have several motivations for being interested in solar energy,” he noted. Those motivations, he said, include money, “hating the utility” and wanting to be “part of a movement.”
Hinkle went on to compare the long term cost benefits of solar energy with those of conventional means, such as coal. Though the current initial cost of coal energy is lower, he claimed that long term, even when government subsidies and tax breaks expire, the pricing is much less disparate.
“The price should come down in the next 10 years,” he said.
Currently, there are a variety of incentives in place to encourage the use of solar, or other alternative energy forms. Tax breaks aside, the government has also mandated that energy companies must buy back excess energy created by solar panels. Depending on the efficiency of a particular array, this can offset the price of installation in just a few years.
The average price of a residential array, Hinkle says, is between $15 and $35,000 installed. There are grants and subsidies available to help with 10 – 15 percent of that.
We’re in the right place to do it.
“Massachusetts is just as good as Florida, based on kilowatt hours,” Hinkle explained. “We get sun even on cold days, and solar panels work better when cold.”
This makes our climate ideal for solar efficiency.
Each panel has a sensor in it that monitors the efficiency, which can be monitored online from any location. My Generation can plot this efficiency in advance, based on roof direction, pitch and surrounding shade, which Hinkle says can be one of the most challenging aspects here on Cape Cod.
While the price can be daunting, Hinkle notes, especially in this economy, his company and others are thinking a bit outside the box.
Recently, he has been working with businesses that want solar energy and have a viable location, but don’t have the resources to pay for it.
“We create a separate company to buy and install the system,” he explained. “And then once it’s up and running we sell the energy to the business.”
The business then gets cheaper green energy, while the company gets the tax credits and makes a profit for its investors. After a certain period, the business owner gets a buyout. This is a method he has employed a number of times here on Cape, at locations such as the Orleans Marketplace and Anchor Self Storage in Mashpee.
It’s also a method that has not just mutually beneficial aspects but is good for the Cape as a whole.
“It’s cost-effective for the business, and keeps money in the community that would normally go to a utility,” Hinkle claimed.
Photo by J. James Joiner