Living Off the Grid Part 2 

Continuing our series on living off the grid we meet a man from Hallowell that has the largest solar panel system in the state and then tell you how you can put more money in your pocket.

&quot:So far we’ve spent about 230 thousand.&quot:

A big chunk of change, but well worth the cost Scott Cowger says

Cowger owns the Maple Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast Inn and Conference Center in Hallowell.

In 2003 the wind turbine was put up.

3 years later the largest solar set up in the state was installed here.

&quot:Between the solar and wind turbine we get about 1/2 our electrical needs.&quot:

The solar panels provide electric and heat water.

Because Cowger’s business still consumes additional energy it’s still hooked into the grid. The renewable energy made goes directly to that grid, and the kilowatts are converted into dollars that are deducted from the monthy electric bill.

&quot:We think it saves about a $1000 a month.&quot:

It’s a process called, net metering.

&quot:We think we’re going to get a payback in 5 to 10 years in a large part because there are some great tax incentives on the federal level for solar systems.&quot:

Congress passed an energy bill this month which provides a 30-percent tax credit for businesses that invest in solar. starting in January that perk will be available to homeowners too.

Another federal tax credit helps people buy small wind turbines for home, farm or commercial use.

If you buy a wind system you could receive as much as a 4-thousand dollar tax break from the government.

Solar rebates through the state will soon be available too.

&quot:the program has been received extremely well. What we’ve seen in the last year especially is a huge interest in interest because the cost of energy has increased so what’s happened is we’ve run out of money.&quot:

Efficiency Maine’s Tim Vrabel says the program gets on average 5-hundred thousand each year – most of that money has been allocated in 09 already.

Vrabel says both solar and wind options are smart investments, but it has to start with setting priorities straight.

&quot:you can never forget the importance of energy efficiency first that’s the real message.&quot:

Of course there are plenty of things you can do to become more energy efficient from swapping out incandescent lightbulbs to compact fluorescents to wrapping your water heater with a water heater blanket. For more tips log onto efficiency maine dot com.

And in case your wondering where the state money for the solar rebate program comes from — it’s probably coming from your pocket. If you get a monthly electric bill — there’s a conservation and solar surcharge that was put in place by the legislature. Central Maine Power’s John Carroll has told TV5 that the average charge for that is 82-cents a month.