Tarrytown is becoming a beacon for solar energy, from to a proposed at the Train Station.
The latest development in Tarrytown's quest for solar was the installation of a 10kW solar energy system on the roof of the Senior Center. Work was mostly completed by Wednesday afternoon.
The project is primarily funded through a $215,868 stimulus grant administered through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The grant is part of the federal government's Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As part of the stipulation attached to the monies, all products, supplies and labor is from the United States.
The Village Hall and Senior Center projects are largely due to one individual – Sleepy Hollow's Michael Kampen.
"My vision is to push solar, show the savings and give people contact with solar in their community," he said.
Kampen runs Prudent Power, which wrote the grant applications that helped secure the NYSERDA money for the project. Despite the work he has put into getting solar done in Tarrytown, Kampen has an entirely different full-time job and runs Prudent Power almost as a hobby, spurred on by his passion for sun-powered energy.
"I am a proponent of solar. I want to show the community in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow what solar really is," he said.
Originally from Germany, Kampen comes from a country that has embraced the concept in a way currently unseen in the United States.
"In Germany, you'll even see barns covered with photovoltaic systems," he said. "That is the main source of income for some farmers."
But perhaps the biggest obstacle to solar power locally is the American consumer. Many can't afford the up-front expenditures associated with photovoltaic installments, although most people will realize savings equal to the money invested on solar panels within ten years.
Currently, there are state and federal programs that significantly offset the cost of solar panel purchases and installment by as much as 55 percent. There are also new technologies coming online that make solar more practical at the consumer level, such as single-panel DC to AC inverters – previously all panels were hooked into one inverter which was expensive and would cause the entire solar array to shut down if the inverter failed. The systems also come with warranties, panels on the Senior Center are covered for 25 years, while their inverters are covered for ten years.
According to Kampen, the price for solar energy in general is also continuing to drop, especially since cheaper Chinese items are in mass production.
"They are pushing everyone. They are the competitive edge to beat," he said.
The price of a solar array has come down so much that the highest cost is labor for installation. But even with prices continuing to drop, Kampen feels that the solar age is at hand and people shouldn't hesitate to learn more about sun energy.
"You'll never buy a computer if you are waiting for a better price, because it is constantly coming down," he said. "There are many possibilities. Start small and grow larger."