WRITTEN BY MARK JAEGER
Interest in alternative energy leads to forming of Great Lakes Ecosystems
When Bill Driscoll, who is vice president of the Saukville alarm company DeTech Firesense Technologies, was looking to diversify his business holdings, he turned to a hot commodity — solar energy.
And when he needed a setting to demonstrate that cutting-edge technology, Driscoll turned to his Port Washington home on Noridge Trail. Driscoll and his wife June bought the rights to be the exclusive Wisconsin dealer of Yellow Blue solar products, developed by an Iowa company committed to conserving energy and protecting the environment.
With that product line, the couple created Great Lakes Ecosystems. The company shares warehouse facilities and offices with DeTech in the Saukville business park.
“I am pretty particular about the products I take on. I have been looking at solar energy pretty closely for about 18 months and became interested in the products Yellow Blue offers,” Driscoll said.
Before he jumped head-first into the world of solar power, Driscoll said several initial measures were taken at his home to make it as energy efficient as possible. Those steps included installing a reflective solar blanket in the attic and replacing virtually all the lights with LED fixtures.
Then, two weeks ago, Driscoll converted his home into a showcase with the installation of a critical load hybrid solar system. An array of 16 3-by-5-foot solar panels were mounted on the roof.
“We installed a hybrid solar system that is capable of providing all the essential power I need to live off the grid,” he said.
“The system powers the furnace, refrigerator, lights, stereo, TV — just about everything but the air conditioning. If for some reason service from We Energies ever went out, I’d be fine.”
The hybrid aspect of the 4,000-watt system means the home can be reconnected to the power grid simply by flipping a switch.
“Other than (one at the home of) the engineer who designed it, this is the first of its kind installation in the country,” Driscoll said.
At current energy rates, he said, the system will save him between $75 and $100 a month on electric bills.
The retail value of the high-end configuration Driscoll installed is about $40,000, but the financial impact is lessened because the federal government offers a 30% tax credit to promote alternative energy sources. Those credits run through 2016.
Less expensive systems are also available for homeowners who want solar power to supplement, but not fully replace, their electrical use.
“With the way energy costs are expected to keep climbing, it has gotten to the point where you can start talking about systems like this paying for themselves in about 10 to 12 years with the tax credit,” Driscoll said.
The payback period for a system would shorten significantly if solar-generated power is used all the time, he said, and not just as a supplementary energy source.
Driscoll said the real-world installation of the solar system at his home is already being noticed.
“I have already had five or six people ask about the system, and several of my neighbors are interested,” he said.