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January 09, 2013

From Tornado Alley to Rally: How One Family Rebuilt with Solar



On June 1, 2011, a crippling EF3-tornado nearly obliterated the small Massachusetts town of Monson, destroying 40 homes in its path and causing severe damage to many buildings and roads.

Indeed, by 10 p.m., seven reported tornadoes had torn through Massachusetts and spread through New England, leaving 500 people homeless and more than 48,000 electricity customers without power. President Barack Obama declared nearby Springfield, Mass, and the surrounding region a federal disaster area.

As devastating as the 160-mph winds and the concomitant destruction were, the 8,500 residents of the little town of Monson also speak of a community spirit and strength the disaster created. For some Monsonians, like James Williams and his wife Elizabeth, the fact that they had lost everything in the tornado was a cue to start over on a completely new level.

“When we rebuilt our home, we decided wanted to be more energy efficient and we were very interested in solar,” said Williams. Paradise Energy Solutions, a solar integrator company operating in nine states in the Northeast and with a Westfield, Mass. branch office, was responsible for designing and executing the installation of the 21 solar panels that comprise the 5.25-kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic system on the roof of the Williams’ garage.

The array already is yielding returns. Since it was installed last fall, the power bill for the Williams’ residence has dropped 87 percent— from $230 a month to $30.



“[Paradise Energy Solutions] really cared about our situation and that made it easy to go with them for our installation,” commented Williams in a statement. “It’s very interesting to come home at the end of the day and see just how much energy is being produced, even when it’s a cloudy day like today!”

The Williams’ system will pay for itself in just under four years and will provide a significant return on their investment.

“The return on investment from adding energy efficient measures and investing in a high-yielding solar PV system is immediate,” explained Olan Martin, solar expert for Paradise Energy Solutions and the consultant who worked with the Williams on their system.

He added, “With their PV system, the Williams will be able to harvest energy from the sun for a minimum of 30 years per guarantee of the manufacturer. Add to this, zero emissions and overall reduction in carbon footprint, and there is really no better way to generate 100 percent reliable clean energy.”

What’s more, he noted, homeowners who install a PV-system usually enjoy an average 10 percent increase in the market value of their residence and the benefit of locking into a levelized cost of energy for many decades.

Joe Thomas, the president and CEO of Dublin, GA-based Mage Solar USA, the company that provided the solar panels noted: “We are tremendously impressed by the Williams’ story and honored to have been part of this project together with Paradise Energy Solutions. The Williams’ decision to rebuild after the tornado using solar energy sends a significant message but also spreads hope and confidence that each one of us can be part of the clean energy future.”

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Edited by Jamie Epstein


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