Solar solution to the mystery


To the Editor:

It is a mystery to me why most Islanders have not “gone solar” long ago. I understand that most know only about photovoltaics (PV) or “geothermal.” That is why most have not even considered solar thermal (ST), even though two-thirds of their energy costs are heat and hot water, and that is often the greatest energy, fossil fuel, and carbon offset possible.

To paraphrase the Solar Ratings Certification Corporation ( 64 square feet of ST is equal to 400 square feet of PV. Even with the new PV incentives, evacuated tube ST (EVT) is still the best alternative energy deal in this climate by far. The heart of the mystery is that many alternative systems pay for themselves.

If you had used your propane savings to make the payments on a loan on an EVT system taken in 2003, it would be paid off by now, and you would have free hot water and/or heat for about 20 years before any significant maintenance would be needed. The simplest EVT systems installed on the Island will have paid for themselves in four years, with current incentives. In effect, every Islander and business has already paid for their system, but has not decided to install it.

A typical home equity loan would be about the same as a new car, but the new car would not pay for itself.

The next part of the mystery: There is a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners ( qualified EVT installer on the Island (one of four in Massachusetts.) That will soon be the license, similar to the license an electrician or plumber earns in their fields.

China, Australia, Germany, Spain, Israel, and many other countries are 10 years ahead of the U.S., and the rest of the country is ahead of us. (See American Solar Energy Society,, industry report.) EVTs save money and energy, are often the best of all the alternatives for the environment, can be professionally installed, and are virtually trouble free. In special circumstances other alternatives can be as effective.

We find ways to buy the other things we need. With energy costs set to rise sharply, what is holding us back??

Tim Twombly

West Tisbury