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James and Elizabeth Williams
James and Elizabeth Williams and their batteryless grid-tied PV array.

James and Elizabeth Williams lost nearly everything—their house, garage, shed, and household possessions—in a June 2011 tornado that tore through western Massachusetts. But in the process, they “found” renewable energy.

Although they were already aware of the power of PV—a neighbor had installed a solar-electric system—it was meeting Olan Martin of Paradise Energy Solutions at the Big Home Show that springboarded the Williamses’ solar project—a batteryless grid-tied PV system. A combination of state and federal incentives helped make the system affordable. Incentives included a federal tax credit of 30% of the system cost and a state tax credit of $1,000. They also received a MassCEC grant of $2,000, plus a storm damage adder of $5,000. After rebates, the cost for their 5.25 kW system was $11,200. The Williamses also participated in the Massachusetts solar carve-out program by selling their solar renewable energy credits (SRECs). The system is expected to produce six SRECs annually, at an estimated value of $200 to $300 per SREC.

With the retail cost of electric energy from their utility between $0.15 and $0.17 per kWh—among the highest in the country­—the couple’s PV system will offer them significant savings. The system is expected to produce approximately 6,000 kWh per year, paying off their investment in less than five years, and their electricity bill is estimated to be reduced by about 70%.

The system is secured to the roof of their new garage using Unirac rails with Quick Mount PV mounts. The 250-watt Mage PV modules are each coupled with Enphase 215 W microinverters, giving module-level monitoring. The two strings of AC modules run to a combiner box in the garage and feed the service panel in the house. As of January 15, 2013, the system has produced just over 2,000 kWh—right on target with expectations.

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