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Photovoltaic System Installation Completed at the Kempton Fire Company

The MAREA Workshop "Installation of a Photovoltaic System" at the Kempton Fire Company Community Hall on Route 143 in Kempton was successfully completed on June 7-8. The 2.0kw system will generate electricity for use by the fire company and any excess electricity not used, will be sold back to the electric utility, Med Ed, at the same rate paid by the fire company.

The two-day session included installation of the roof mounting racks and photovoltaic panels, and an inverter to convert the electricity to the utility’s voltage and waveform. The system is intertied into a three-phase, 208 volt, 400 amp, electrical service.

The class was taught by master electrician and community college instructor Jenny Eigenberger. Eigenberger has been a speaker at the PA Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Festival and is a renewable energy and electrician apprentice instructor at Lakeshore Technical College in Wisconsin.

Lee Kauffman, a partner at Berks Solar, LLC, supervised the installation. Kauffman, of Fleetwood, has 25 years commercial and industrial electrical experience in the Berks County area.

The system, valued at $18,000, was donated through a partnership of MAREA and local and state government groups as a community service and educational project. A Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development grant of $5,000 through the office of Rep. David Argall (R-124) helped defray part of the equipment purchase, as did the Albany Township Board of Supervisors, who applied towards the equipment purchase the $3,200 entertainment tax from last year’s Pennsylvania Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Festival at the Kempton Fairgrounds.

At current electrical rates, the system will reduce the fire company’s bill by approximately $30 a month. However, electrical rates are expected to possibly double within the next few years as rate caps are removed in the next two years. Every rate increase will shorten the payback period.

At the same time, over the 25-year life of the photovoltaic system, the pollution-free and renewable electricity produced will avoid 49 tons of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, as well as quantities of acid-rain forming sulfur and fish-contaminating mercury that are released from coal burning power plants. Unlike nuclear power, which is also part of the power generation mix in Pennsylvania, there is also no long-term radiation contamination issue or possibility of a reactor meltdown.