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Solair “What will you do?”


T.S. Smith & Sons team up with Solair

T.S. Smith and Sons melds history with true-friendly adaptation

Article in Going Green on Delmarva

By Monica Scott

“We’re the apple in the Apple Scrapple festival,” explained Charles Walton “Charlie” Smith III of T.S. Smith and Sons in Bridgeville, Del. While he noted the festival is put on by the Bridgeville Historical Society, he said T.S. Smith & Sons’ part in it helps both the farm and the town with visibility.

He said, with a chuckle, “30,000 people in Bridgeville on a fall weekend, it’s not bad.”

Smith, along with his brothers Tom and Matt, owns and grows for the century farm established in 1907 by their great-grandfather, Thomas Sterling (T.S.) Smith. They farm between 800 and 1,000 acres – some owned and some leased – and offer up some of the most popular varieties of apples, peaches and nectarines, as well as asparagus, watermelon, sweet corn, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, squash and green peppers. And, of course, their ever-popular apple-cider doughnuts.

“They have some great apple doughnuts,” offered repeat customer Tim Banks of Bridgeville.

Just recently, after an energy audit, T.S. Smith & Sons merged that long history of being a century farm and community staple and added the modern marvel of solar panels to produce energy for their cold-storage facility – the biggest source of their energy usage. The 150 ground-mounted solar panels will produce about 43 kw of power, enough to produce ample energy for the storage unit and then some, all while helping them save on their $25,000 yearly electric bill.

“The incentives made it attractive,” admitted Smith, mentioning the federal tax credit of 30 percent and a 25 percent state grant, which make it possible to finance a little less than half of the actual cost of the system. And, while it is still quite an investment, Smith said he believes it is worth it – especially considering the business he’s in.

“It’s got to be less risky than farming,” he said. “And we are reducing our carbon footprint. That’s important to me.”

Also important is making sure the people who care as much as they do get the message about all they are doing.

“Our take on it is we thought out consumers are obviously coming to buy the fresh produce… and farmers are always in the news about the runoff, etc. But on a whole, farmers aren’t bad people,” added Matt Smith. “We are on the cutting edge of this green technology. If people can see that they are making a living and see we are trying to make a living too, and it looks good environmentally, hopefully, those same people will support us.”

With his degree in agriculture and a minor in ecology, the environment had always held a special place in Charlie Smith’s heart. And his environment – the farm – is something he especially wants to take care of for generations to come.

“Obviously the economic incentives are there, but the environmental considerations are just icing on the cake,” he said. “To be using less fossil fuels, having less runoff because of less fertilizer and pesticides are used… growing up here, this is what draws a kid back here, “ he said, pointing to the acres of fruit trees. “My dad is still active on the farm, and he’s 84.”

Smith pointed out that his father’s house is considered a “historical structure,” and he takes pride in both that history and the cutting edge technology of the solar panels, as well as their other conservation efforts.

“The farm market was built in 1928. There’s a lot of history going from something like this to back here,” he added, pointing from the farm market to the newly installed solar panels that are top-of-the-line modern and hooked up online, with immediate feedback and information, as well as micro-inverters on each panel that can be checked via computer.

The farm is also located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and the stream that runs through it is a tributary of the headwaters of the Nanticoke River. With such wondrous natural resources all around, it’s hard for someone like Smith and his brothers to not want to conserve it the best they can.

In addition to the panels, the farm has had a conversion to trickle irrigation to save water, prevent runoff and to save on fossil fuel and emissions, which can be the difference between using 500 to 600 gallons of water per minute and 40 gallons per minute. They also participate in stewardship programs to establish buffers, create habitat and limit production near streams, and use no-till and minimum-tillage farming practices and crop rotation.

They also use integrated pest management to keep the “good “ bugs while limiting the need for pesticides for the “bad” ones, and reuse apple trees for wood, as well as baskets, crates and other items, and have an aim to move to biodegradable bags and to encourage the use of reusable shopping bags in their farm market.

The farm market is open daily from late April through December, and they offer fresh produce, as well as flowers, fresh pressed apple cider (beginning in September), apple cider doughnuts baked daily, jams, jellies and honey. This year, they will offer you-pick peaches, apples and pumpkins, as well as school and group tours.

In addition to selling wholesale, five of the local WalMarts carry their fruits and vegetables in season and much of their excess fruit goes to Ziegler’s in nearby Pennsylvania to make apple cider.

T.S. Smith and Sons will celebrate their solar panel installation with a ribbon-cutting and grand opening May 6 and 7, and everyone is welcome.

While maybe not the embodiment of your “typical” environmentalist, Smith sees the “big picture,” for sure.

“I wouldn’t define myself as a tree hugger,” he concluded. “But good planets are hard to find.”

In a town whose tagline is “Bridgeville: If you lived here, you’d be home now,” it doesn’t get much simpler than that.

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Solar Power: Green, Renewable, and Eco-Friendly

The whole world is now beginning to understand the importance of our environment and what we have done to compromise the balance of nature.  The beauty is that we are intelligent beings and can change how we do things and in the process nurture the environment we co-habitat with. Being responsible for our actions concerning the environment has now become a necessity for our future in many ways, but in particular with the energy consumption that we have become so accustomed to.

Whether you believe in global warming or not, it just does not make sense to continue to use a resource that is non-renewable and will run out. When it is gone, it’s gone! Solar power solves this issue 100% on both counts:  renewable and non-toxic to us and the environment. It really is a no-brainer.

A 1-kilowatt solar power system eliminates the burning of about 170 pounds of coal, 300 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the air, and saves up to 105 gallons of water supply consumption monthly. Take for example fossil-fuel burning plants: Coal accounts for over half the nation’s electricity output. To produce coal into energy, approximately 65% is wasted, which means only 35% of the energy produced makes it to the power grid. By harnessing the power of the sun, no resources are burned or broken down that would generate unsafe gases that would ultimately harm nature. The simple fact that it doesn’t harm the environment in any way is reason enough for some to go solar.

We can take the power of the sun and use it for many different functions such as powering our homes or heating our pools. This diagram shows the percentages of some of the other uses of solar energy:

uses of solar energyThe FPL group outside of West Palm Beach, Florida, has recently erected a  500 acre solar hybrid plant. It is an experiment designed to see  whether conventional power generation can be married with renewable power in a way that lowers costs and spares the environment.  It estimates it will cut its natural gas use by 1.3 billion cubic feet each year, the consumption of 18,000 American homes. It will also cut carbon emissions by 2.75 million tons over 30 years, the equivalent of taking 19,000 cars off the road.  This is on a much broader scale of course then in residential use, but you get the picture of what a relief it will on the environment even applying solar power to your home.

Osprey Pointe Homes Boast Solar Panels

The following article was featured in the Kent Island Bay Times. Solair is in discussions with Osprey Pointe developer Shore Land Ventures, LLC to provide solar panels to the East Coast’s first geosolar community and the nation’s first carbon-neutral community.

Published: Wednesday, June 15, 2011

STEVENSVILLE Homeowners at Osprey Pointe in Grasonville can manage energy usage from their family room television, place of business or their winter retreat in Florida, according to Mike Murphy, construction division president for Nexus EnergyHomes (NEH).

Nexus Vision, a patented interactive home control software with remote capabilities, is just one of the futuristic features in the project touted as both the nation’s first carbon-neutral waterfront community and the East Coast’s first geosolar community. Whatever you call it, county officials and citizens are excited about the new community designed to generate as much energy as it consumes, its ancillary technology and its possible impact to future new construction.

During an open-house at NEH’s new headquarters in Stevensville on June 2, County Commissioner David Dunmyer presented the group with a commendation on behalf of the county, saying he is especially excited as an environmentalist.

NEH VP Mike Mullen said, “Let’s make Queen Anne’s County proud,” before turning the program over to Murphy.

Located at Pierson Road and Maryland Route 18 in Grasonville, Osprey Pointe is the vision of Queen Anne’s County developer Jody Schulz of Shore Land Ventures, LLC in partnership with NEH.

Each of the 12 single-family homes and two duplexes starting at $745,000, will include all the high-end details expected of a luxury waterfront home such as granite counters, wood floors, 9-foot ceilings, crown molding, soaking tubs and more. Add geothermal heat pumps, photovoltaic solar panels, super insulated building shells, and environmentally conscious green building materials, and the result is a very comfortable and environmentally responsible lifestyle.

At the open house, Murphy unveiled the prototype for Nexus Vision a systems control software that allows the homeowner to view energy consumption by room, control temperature, alarms and even unlock the front door from anywhere.

“The system reads the home breaker by breaker, allowing you to view and adjust the way you are living,” said Murphy, adding that the remote locking feature could be handy when homeowners are unavailable to assist a family member who had lost a key.

The system is the perfect accessory to the homes Murphy said are “built different.”

He explained that traditional builders say a house should breathe. This might sound like a good idea, he said, but the result is a structure at nature’s whim; hot in the summer, cold in the winter and subject to air pollution.

“The house has to be tight as possible … the system should create the breath,” said Murphy.

He said a full-house HEPA-filtration system creates the breath in Nexus homes, producing clean air every 48 minutes.

Structural insulated panels (SIP), made of rigid Styrofoam sandwiched between boards, provide twice the insulation of a traditional foundation. Foam that expands by 700 percent, is installed at the rafters and stops energy loss in the attic. These materials create a home that is tighter, cleaner, quieter and stronger than traditional construction by an average of about 50 percent, said Murphy.

Once the home is air-tight, geothermal heat pumps move the earth’s temperature through a well and into the home.

“It takes energy to constantly alter the temperature by creating cold and hot air. With geothermal technology, we’re not producing (temperature), we’re just moving it,” said Murphy.

Solar panels to produce energy enough for systems come standard in the homes while extra panels to produce energy for accessories and entertainment systems are optional.

Murphy said they will work with buyers to calculate additional energy requirements if desired.

“The home itself is net zero. True net zero (consumption) is an option,” said Murphy.

The same technology available at Osprey Pointe was recently applied to three homes in Centreville’s Three Creeks, also a Shore Land Venture development.

Three Creeks was in its last phase with three lots unsold for quite some time, according to Schulz. Providing options for green technology has made all the difference in getting the final lots sold, he said.

Michael and Jeannie Whichard of Colorado, signed a contract for an NEH home at Three Creeks in early June.

Their $400,000, 2,700 square foot home on one acre will have all the green technology featured at Osprey Pointe minus the waterfront location, community dock and pool and possibly some of the higher-end details of the Osprey project.

“It has the new control system, geothermal heat and it’s insulated like a big cooler,” said Whichard, describing the SIP foundation and air-tight insulation.

The Whichards have opted for true net-zero energy consumption and hope to someday be completely off the grid. Because the system generates but does not store energy, they will need a battery or non-solar powered technology to operate after the sun goes down if they want to be off the grid independent of energy companies.

Michael Whichard is returning to a position with the Armed Forces News Command at Fort Meade and is currently living in Arlington, Va. He used every spare moment since moving from Colorado, to look for a commutable property with environmental aspects and land, for an affordable price he said.

“Finding land and convenience at a decent price is the hardest thing to do,” said Whichard.

The Whichard’s new home has a contemporary, open floor plan with no formal living room or dining room, just like they enjoyed in Colorado and were looking for in Maryland.

They are looking forward to living in Queen Anne’s County, hopefully by this fall, said Michael Whichard.