The Supe Solarizes Himself

With warnings about catastrophic climate change growing ever more urgent, the Town of East Hampton has moved proactively, having set a goal to achieve its energy needs from renewable sources. 

On an individual level, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc is leading by example. Last summer, he took advantage of the town’s Solarize East Hampton program to install photovoltaic panels on the roof of his house in Northwest Woods. 

Through a request for proposals, the town selected GreenLogic Energy as its designated solar installer. The company conducts a free assessment to ensure that a property receives adequate sunlight, Mr. Van Scoyoc said this week. “The condition of your roof is important,” he said. “You want to make sure it will outlast the expected life of the panels,” 20 to 25 years. 

“From that point, you look at your electric bill,” he said. “You want to balance your current or projected electric usage with the amount of generation that you have on the roof. You don’t want to produce considerably more than you’re using — the idea is to offset and generate an equivalent amount, reducing your electric bill to the basic service charge.”

Through net metering, in which solar panels are connected to a public-utility power grid and surplus power is transferred onto it, utility customers can offset the cost of power drawn from the utility. Mr. Van Scoyoc likened the system to a cellphone plan’s rollover minutes. “If you create a surplus during some portion of the year, it gets banked into your account so in periods of rain or shorter days, you get the credit of those banked hours on your electric bill,” he said. 

The Van Scoyocs were using around 11,000 kilowatts of electricity annually, the supervisor said. “We sized our system to basically produce that much, based on the amount of sunshine per day.” 

Installation and inspections were a simple process, he said, lasting just a few days. “The contractor took care of all permitting,” he said. “We only had to sign a few papers.”

A $5,000 state rebate, and another on the federal tax return, meant no out-of-pocket costs, Mr. Van Scoyoc said. GreenLogic arranges loans to cover the cost of the installation, payable with the rebates. “The idea is to get your loan payments at or below your monthly electric bill,” he said. “We more than did that.” 

At the same time, the Van Scoyocs took advantage of a rebate for installation of a variable-speed swimming pool pump and a free Nest thermostat through the South Fork Peak Savers program, and changed all lightbulbs to LED. “As a result of all those cost-saving measures, we are producing about 20 percent more electricity than we are currently using, on average, since installation,” the supervisor said. The monthly electric bill, provided the solar array produces as much or more electricity than is consumed, is $14.10. 

An app provides data on daily, weekly, and monthly electricity usage as well as the amount of carbon dioxide not released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. 

“I would encourage residents all over town, if you can, take advantage of it,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said of the Solarize East Hampton program.