By Dan Hust
CALLICOON Much of the world knows Mark Ruffalo these days as The Incredible Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner in Marvel’s recent blockbuster, “The Avengers.”
Much of Sullivan County, meanwhile, has become familiar with the Callicoon resident as an outspoken gas drilling opponent.
Now he’s joined the growing ranks of locals powering their homes with the sun.
The Democrat caught up with Ruffalo last week to see how he and anyone else could afford a solar array.
Q: You’re known for water and gas issues. So how and why did you decide to install a solar system?
Well, I realized a while ago it wasn’t enough to just be against something. I had to find another way that was equally good or better than what I was fighting against.
It’s no secret that I am against the natural gas gold rush going on in America. So I have been on the hunt for viable, job-producing alternatives.
This is real energy independence energy independence that does not make us even more dependent on the fossil fuel industry, an industry that drags us into wars and gouges us at the pump and at the meter.
I want real independence, and the way we are going to get there is through renewable energy.
We are the innovators, we are the leaders, and I am watching the world leaving us behind. I don’t like it. I feel like we are being had by the fossil fuel industry, which has no real commitment to our community or country.
I want to walk the walk and talk the talk. I have to be part of the solution. This is one step closer to me being the world citizen I believe I can be.
Q: How much did it cost, and did you take advantage of any incentives or grants or other aid?
I am leasing my 14-kilowatt solar array from a company called Sungevity. I did a prepay lease for $9,003.08 (ground mount).
Sungevity’s pricing included the incorporation of a state incentive from NYSERDA [NYS Energy Research and Development Authority] over $10,000 (state rebate) and a federal tax credit, both of which are applied to Sungevity so they can bring us affordable solar.
This system did not involve huge upfront costs. The great thing about the system is that it can be leased with no upfront money. Most middle class families can get this system without shelling out a huge amount of cash.
In the past, solar was prohibitive because it cost a large sum of money to put it up. With leasing, they take your monthly fee out of the energy you are saving every month by producing your own energy.
I will be saving more than $1,200 a year with this system.
Q: Who did the installation, and how did it go?
Sungevity installed the system. They subcontracted local electricians and excavators. Mike Gorr did the trenching, and New York State Solar Farm did the solar install.
Once the job was designed and approved for installation by the state and utility (about a 4- to 6-month process), the actual install job took two weeks. It is connected to the whole electrical system for the main house.
Q: Was there anything that surprised or struck you about its installation or operation?
I was surprised by how damn proud of it I am and how simple the entire thing is to maintain.
Sungevity monitors the system via the Internet. They will maintain it throughout its lifetime. If there is a loss in energy, they will send someone out to get it back up to par.
I am surprised by how little there is to do to keep it up.
Q: Can you sell energy back to the electric company, and how soon do you expect a return on your investment?
This is the essence of net metering: any electricity that is produced over what I use is put back on the grid and credited to me. Then my neighbor uses it.
This is our road to energy independence. It is inexhaustible. It is ultimately free, and no one ever fought a war over a solar panel.
The difference between this and drilling is when you have a solar spill, it’s not a nightmare, it’s a beautiful day.
With my array, I will save about $1,300 per year in energy, and over the course of the lease, it will take 300,000 pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere.
Q: Would you recommend this to others, and if so, do you have suggestions on how people of middle and low incomes can afford such?
The reason I got this system was because I didn’t want to shell out $40,000 right off the top. I wanted to show to people what was possible.
Soon we will be able to do community solar, where the community can choose to have its own solar farm. It would pay for itself through our collective use of the system. The cost is defrayed over the entire community.
This is being done in California and parts of NY. This would be very cheap to do and employ quite a few people.
Until then, we have leasing. Sungevity has a zero-percent-down lease option, no money out of pocket. Middle-income customers can now afford solar power.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
I love the idea of energy independence real energy independence, not the appearance of it, but the true realization of it.
The technology is here for a cleaner world, a safer world, a more independent world where we are not reliant on multinational corporations for our very existence. This is the truest form of democracy to me.
The fossil fuel industry has been leading us around by the nose for the last 70 years. They take an enormous amount of our tax money in subsidies and have a good amount of politicians in their pockets. They tell us where to go to war and have cost us dearly in military conflict.
It’s been a good run, and we have gained a lot from it. I am grateful to have had the industrial and technical revolutions. Now we are ripe for an energy revolution, a peaceful Sunlight Revolution.
We have been given a false equivalency: fossil fuel extraction or no lights, jobs or money. It just isn’t true. We do have another way. It is available to us today. We actually get a choice.
When I say, ‘“Power to the people,” I actually mean it. Literally.