By David Capps

A lively group of about 50 local residents interested in solar electricity attended an informational meeting hosted by Transition Catskills, Southern Tier Solar Works and the Andes Hotel on Saturday, October 3rd. As a long-time local “off the gridder” I was very proud to see the strong showing of interest as well as highly intelligent questions that our Andes community brought to the meeting. I’ve started a discussion with Jeff Potent of Transitions Catskills about creating a ListServ or on-line discussion group for solar energy in the area. I would be very happy to help put Andes on the map of forward-thinking communities that are devoted to the building of truly sustainable and healthful economies. Anyone interested in joining a ListServ, please feel free to contact me at You can view the website for Transitions Catskills at

The presentation offered a great deal of information about the current state of photovoltaic technology and of the economics of financing installations for private residences as well as collectives.  The gathering made it clear the realities of the industry are coming together to make this year a real moment of opportunity for homeowners or business people interested in going solar. Here are a few salient points that were made:

  • The efficiency of solar panels has continued to rise in the past decade, but may have reached a plateau until major new discoveries come on line.
  • The cost of panels has continued to drop, and with national and international manufacturing initiatives, including a large factory slated to open in Buffalo by 2017, suggesting that even lower prices are on the horizon.Net metering, the process whereby you can send extra electricity that you produce back into the grid, thereby “running your meter backwards,” is well established in New York State.State and federal incentives and loan programs are possibly at their peak, and currently can bring the initial costs of installation within reach of many budgets.
    • The rapid growth in the industry has created massive new employment possibilities around our region and nationally.
    • The current relatively low prices of fossil fuels are inevitably temporary and the long-term prospects for energy costs move in the favor of an active engagement with renewables.

    Adam Flint, of Southern Tier Solar Works, presented a nitty-gritty example of a domestic solar electric installation that would replace a $79 monthly electric bill with a $75 monthly loan payment over 15 years (after state and federal rebates and tax credits). This scenario assumes a good site and roof orientation, and we in Andes have trees and hills to consider, but there are expert analysts and installers in the area who can calculate the many variables to arrive at a workable plan for many residences and businesses. There was also some discussion of the possibility of solar electric co-ops that would take advantage of open fields with productive exposures and proximity to multiple homes.~

    *Readers may search on our website to read Parts 1 and 2.