Down to Earth Solar Energy Projects… (Part 1)

Reprinted from Alternative Energy eMagazine – Case Studies from EarthKind Solar

written by Gehard Klier, EarthKind® Energy

Green Seniors Go Solar at Hawthorne Ridge Retirement Community

Joan Taylor has always cared about doing her part to conserve the earth’s resources. She can be called a ‘green senior,’ one of thousands of elderly and retired people around the world who have an active interest in environmental issues.

“I recycled before it was popular,” says the 78-year-old, crediting it to her Scottish heritage.

So it’s not surprising that the driving force behind a new solar thermal project at Hawthorne Ridge in East Greenbush, NY was driven by a group of green grandmas — and one granddad.

Mike Evans, facility manager for Hawthorne Ridge and Northeast Health, worked with the Going Green committee of environmentally-minded seniors to get solar thermal hot water for the independent living retirement community. Hawthorne Ridge is the first Northeast Health affiliate to go solar.


Taylor and about six other residents on the “Going Green” committee at the 50-unit independent retirement community in the Capital District worked with facility manager Mike Evans to successfully get the solar hot water project going.

“Our residents are highly into being green,” says Evans. “We’re seeing more and more of the older generation in the mode of conserving because they know how the economy is and came out of the era of Roosevelt and the Depression.”

The Going Green committee also has embarked on recycling, lighting, food service, community gardening, and other energy management and conservation projects at the community. So when Evans suggested solar about two years ago, the committee immediately endorsed the idea.

“We want to reduce our carbon footprint, our energy costs and our reliance on foreign oil,” he says.

Alternative Energy Leaders

With the unveiling of the project this summer, Hawthorne Ridge became the first affiliate of Northeast Health, the Albany-area health system parent company, to go solar.

“It’s all about providing excellent customer service and helping our residents here,” Evan says. “We’re pleased to be leaders in alternative energy and hope to see other facility managers in our company follow suit.”

Evans, facility manager for Hawthorne Ridge and Northeast Health, worked with the Kingston-based solar provider, EarthKind Energy, to get federal funding for the $100,000 project.

Hawthorne Ridge received grant funding of $75,000 under New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) administration of the State Energy Program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Designed and installed by EarthKind®, the solar thermal system is integrated into the existing hot water system providing 65 percent of the hot water usage. It includes 30 solar collectors on a pitched roof in the main building that capture the sun’s energy to preheat water in two hot water tanks so less natural gas is needed to do the job.

The sun-heated water is used for showers, washing hands and dishes at a 113,000-square-foot common building used by the independent living, assisted living and memory care units on the complex.

EarthKind® — a leading provider of fuel-free solar electric, solar heat and solar hot water — has advised and designed solar projects for schools, governments, municipalities/government and companies throughout the state.

Although it’s only been running for a short time, Evans has already noticed a cost savings on the facility’s gas bill that will eventually translate to lower costs for the residents. EarthKind® is performing Internet-based monitoring to track the savings.

“We’re expecting it to be a huge success,” he says. “It’s a very robust system and runs beautifully. The residents didn’t even realize it was running. There’s no noise or interference. It’s silent behind the scenes.”

While most residents at this 14-acre park-like setting might not realize that the sun is heating their water, Taylor, who also supports wind power and can’t be convinced of any merits to nuclear, knows she is indeed doing her small part to get off the grid.

“I’m probably the most excited person here,” she says. “Every bit helps.”

Recovery Act

Hawthorne Ridge received this award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) State Energy Program (SEP). The State Energy Program provides grants to states and directs funding to State Energy Offices from technology programs in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. States use grants to address their energy priorities and to adopt emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. SEP is distributing $3.1 billion to the states and U.S. territories under the 2009 Recovery Act.

continues on Part 2

About the Author: Gerhard Klier is Engineering Manager at EarthKind® Solar in Kingston, NY and the system designer and integrator for the Bard College solar thermal project. He is an expert on the European and U.S. solar thermal and PV markets and is a professor and lecturer for renewable energies at SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Ulster in NY’s Hudson Valley.