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Posted on: December 02 2009 Tags:

DENNISPORT - Ray and Donna Hebert refuse to let the recession get the best of their retirement plans.

“We looked at the stock market last year and it didn’t look too good so we decided to invest in electricity,” says Ray Hebert, owner of Stage Stop Candy in Dennisport.

This week, 156 solar panels were erected on Hebert’s vacant lot adjoining his business at 411 Main St., Dennisport. The ground-mounted panels, arranged in 39 arrays of four panels each, are expected to generate 75 percent of the electricity Hebert uses in his candy shop.

“Our electricity use is intense, especially in the hot summer months,” says Hebert. His annual NStar bills exceed $14,000 to keep his nine chocolate tanks operating at the proper temperature while cooling the air around them so he and his staff can function comfortably.

The system’s price tag, a cool $254,840, is offset by $165,076 in combined state and federal stimulus grants. Hebert expects to recover his share, just under $90,000, in five years and direct his electricity savings into his 401K account. After five years, Hebert’s return on investment will be 13.8 percent. “What investment can guarantee that?” he asks. “And since electricity costs are expected to climb, my profit will go up, up, up over time.”

State law requires power companies to buy privately generated electricity at the market rate. The energy Hebert’s solar panels generate will go into the grid, and he’ll purchase what he uses at the same rate at which he sells it, making his energy costs virtually free.

By Nicole Muller