Northshire Turns to Solar Power

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Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, now features an array of photovoltaic panels on its roof. The 16-kilowatt PV system, slated to be online by the end of the year, will supply approximately 10 percent of Northshire’s electric needs.

“I have always wanted to get solar on the roof,” said store owner Chris Morrow. Several years ago, he applied to Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development (SPEED) Program, but hadn’t heard anything back until recently. “They called up out of the blue saying that I was accepted,” Morrow told BTW. “At that point, I didn’t even know whether I still could afford to do it.  But the numbers worked out and here we are.”

Thanks to a state rebate and federal incentives, the $95,000 price tag for the project was reduced to about a $34,000 outlay for the store. “The payback on that is about seven years. After that, it’s free income from the sun,” Morrow said. “The state will be buying back the electricity at a higher rate than the retail rate and it’s fixed for 25 years so I have a guaranteed payback.” (SPEED’s blog has all the technical details and photos.)

Along with the economic and environmental benefits, the new system will provide a way for Northshire, a member of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, to show sustainability in action.  “It is good education for our customers,” Morrow said, “because we’ll have a touch screen kiosk in the store next to the Sustainability section showing how much power is being generated and comparing it to other energy sources.”