Corrections or additions?
This article by Terri Bookman was prepared for the October 30, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Solar Now, Wind May Be Next
I have been interested in earth-related issue since
I was a teenager," says Hamilton resident Susan Deckert. In her
life-long career as an environmentalist, Deckert worked as a park
naturalist for the Mercer County Park System, for the NJ Department
of Agriculture as an environmentalist, for the NJ Department of Transportation
writing environmental impact statements, and at the NJ Department
of Environmental Protection in the Hazardous Waste Program. She was
co-chair of the Mercer County Solid Waste Commission for 15 years,
and for 12 years served on the Hamilton Township Environmental Commission.
This year Deckert was in the first wave of New Jersey residents to
install solar/photovoltaic (PV) panels to help power her home.
"I would have done it sooner," she says. But for economic
reasons, she says, she had no choice but to wait for the rebate and
net-metering programs to take effect to install her 2.5 kW PV system
— the largest that would fit on her roof.
"The state-funded rebate was a huge incentive," she says.
The tax incentives available before the rebates "were not sufficient."
In addition, she says, over the decades when she followed developments
in the alternative energy field, the systems improved and became more
efficient and less expensive. The technology and efficiency "continues
to be improved," notes Deckert. "The price of my unit would
have been substantially lower" — about $5,000 less — had
she waited a year or two longer to install it.
But by 2001, Deckert had been waiting so long to install solar panels
on the house where she has lived since 1974 (her home was originally
built in 1929), that she jumped at the chance to be a pioneer for
residential solar. She refinanced her home’s mortgage to pay for the
initial outlay for the system.
Deckert’s installation cost, before rebate, was $34,000, including
the battery backup system that she elected to include as part of what
she regards as the "insurance policy" that her PV system provides.
"It’s insurance for the continued operation of my refrigerator,
my computer," she says. It is also insurance for "cost avoidance
for future rate increases." Like many other residential solar
enthusiasts, Deckert is concerned about energy deregulation provisions
that will take effect in New Jersey next summer.
Deckert’s rebate for her rooftop solar installation was $14,000. Like
all the PV systems in the Clean Energy Program, Deckert’s system is
linked to the New Jersey power grid, so she also participates in net-metering
whereby her excess energy production is sold back onto the grid. With
net-metering, Deckert estimates she saves about $600 per year on energy
bills through use of her PV system.
Deckert, a New Jersey native, graduated from Monmouth University with
a B.S. in a pre-med area, with the intention of becoming an environmentalist.
Deckert is divorced, with two grown sons. In 2000, she stood as a
candidate for Mercer County Freeholder on the Green Party ticket.
Deckert says she had to deal with some challenges in the course of
her PV installation because of township regulations that needed to
be streamlined. When she began her effort to install PV, she says,
"there was no law guiding Hamilton Township in reviewing my project.
We were able to prevail upon the mayor to issue an executive order
to expedite the process. It’s been a tremendous education going through
all of the permitting process, plus an education in the available
Deckert does not expect her alternative energy use to culminate with
her PV installation. She notes that there also have been important
recent advances in wind energy technologies. If installed for home
or commercial energy generation, wind power would also be subject
to the Clean Energy Program’s rebate and net metering provisions.
She is interested, she says. "I am looking at wind generation.
I can’t fit any more solar panels on my roof, but I could do wind."
— Terri Bookman
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.