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Solar Case Study – Greg Sowa

Avatar for Ben Zientara
Written by
Published on 11/04/2014
Updated 11/05/2014

Sometimes innovation is the key to going solar. In the case of Greg Sowa, who wanted to use solar to reduce costs for his own home as well as the apartment complex he owns, it meant teaming up with others to create a power group, even though they’re miles away!

Greg Sowa isn’t afraid to be innovative. He wanted to use solar power, but it needed to be the right fit for his situation, which meant he had to wait until things changed. For him, a grid-tied system wasn’t going to work. “I just wasn’t using enough power,” he noted to me when we spoke over the phone. Greg needed a way to team up with others in order for solar power to make sense.

New Hampshire instituted group metering laws, which enabled Greg to put together an eclectic blend of his apartment’s common areas, his office within the apartment, a friend’s apartment, and Greg’s own living space in a second unit (plus the common areas in that unit, too!). Confused? Gotta admit we were too, and we had to have Greg explain this a few times before we got it right.

With group metering, Greg is able to band together disparate places that need power and unite them
under a common bill. This means that instead of wasting the excess power that’s generated by the unit on his apartment building, Greg and his friend can reap the benefits of cheaper power.

Greg was kind enough to explain this process in detail, as it is a different situation than anyone else we’ve spoken with and may be something for others to investigate:

“I own a duplex and a 4-unit apartment building both in Manchester. I live in the duplex and my
office is in the 4-unit building. The PV system is installed on the roof of the 4-unit building and tied into the ‘house’ circuit breaker panel which covers the common areas such as hallways and
outdoor lighting…the excess production is fed into PSNH’s [Greg’s Energy Company] grid.
Through the group net metering laws that were enacted in NH as of January 1, 2014, I’m able to
use the excess electricity in my home (half of the duplex), the common areas of the duplex, and
my friend’s condo in Rochester, NH.

“The way that works is that PSNH cuts me a check each month for the price I would have paid
for the electricity that I fed into the grid, had I been consuming it from PSNH rather than
producing it and feeding it back to them. I then take that money and pay each of the bills from
PSNH that are in the group.”

“It’s uncharted territory,” said Greg, “but as of right now, so far so good.” Though it’s only been running as of this year, Greg describes the set up as “pretty smooth sailing.”

In order to go solar, Greg did need to take out a loan, but he expects to have the system pay for itself within about four and a half years. Even though he’s part of a group, Greg received the Federal tax credit and estimates that he received about seven thousand in a commercial/industrial rebate from the state thirty days after installation. After all is said and done, Greg believes he’s even making a small profit on the energy now, compared to what it would cost him to just use his electric company’s system.

Greg’s setup is definitely different from anyone else we’ve spoken to up to this point. His apartment is in the middle of the city, so “the others around me own for investment, not looks” which meant that he didn’t have to deal with any HOA or other regulations. He’s in the rare situation where he’s using solar at his personal residence, despite it being in a location where solar isn’t feasible. Thanks to the new metering laws, Greg’s able to do something none of his neighbors can, at least not at this time!

A groundbreaker in both the state (where his certificate is stamped “2” indicating only one other person before him got a group metering permit) and his family, Greg’s paving the way for others who might want to try this approach in New Hampshire. Among those looking at his set-up is a cousin of Greg’s, who owns a large commercial building. It’s possible that the same concept might work for him as well, and he can use Greg’s experience as a model.

Sometimes solar is as easy as calling up and getting panels on your roof. Sometimes it takes a bit more time, effort, and thinking outside the box. Greg Sowa shows that if you’re willing to take the time to do the research–and in his case, wait for the regulations to fall in line–you can find a way to make solar work for you.

Last modified: November 5, 2014

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