Bristol electricians go solar


The high cost of installing solar power on the building owned by Clem's Electric Company on Broadcommon Street has been a turnoff for the company's president, Wayne Clemens.

While the federal government offered a 30-percent investment tax credit to those businesses who installed renewable energy systems, the State of Rhode Island lagged behind in offering its own incentives, which would further bring the cost down.

This year, however, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation enacted a Renewable Energy Fund, which has designated funds to help businesses such as Clem's Electric to develop renewable energy products. The program offers businesses a grant up to 20-percent of the project cost.

Mr. Clemens couldn't act fast enough.

This week, he flipped the switch, transitioning his company's energy source from the grid to the 126 solars panels outfitted on his roof.

"With energy prices constantly going up, we will see a return on our investment in about five years," Mr. Clemens said.

Working with engineers at Newport Renewables, Clem's Electric spent roughly $130,000 on the project cost. Each panel can produce 265 watts at optimal performance — full sun. The entire system will produce 33,000 watts.

"It's also stabilizing the grid," said Stuart Flanagan of Newport Renewables. "They're no longer drawing energy off the grid, and instead, any overage is put right back into the grid."

There will be months when Clem's Electric will not have an electric bill, and perhaps will even see a credit on their account. It eventually evens out, considering the winter months when the sun is not as prominent and the business may have to draw its power from the grid more.

The entire project is a 25-year investment, which means the panels are under warranty by the company for 25 years.

Employees of Clem's Electric also worked to install the solar panels, a task which pays the company back in training and educating its workers to complete such a project in the future.

"We're moving more toward energy-related projects, more so in Massachusetts," Mr. Clemens said. "To have it installed on my own building was a good fit," and adds credence to the company.

The cost for installing solar panels on either residential or commercial properties has dropped over the years, said Paul Raducha of Newport Renewables. The material used to construct the panels was similar to a computer, and in the early days of solar, materials were in high demand.

"When I first started in (solar energy), the cost per panel was just over $4 a watt," he said. "Now it's just under $1 per watt."

Mr. Raducha also emphasized that there is a safety mechanism that powers down the solar panels' power production if the grid were to go down. This is to ensure there are no live wires, which could electrocute grid workers.

"So when the grid loses power, so does Clem's Electric," Mr. Raducha said.

The company, as well as the public, can monitor the panels' solar production in real-time through a website,



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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.