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Sheep Dog Hollow: an eco-friendly renovation

What I didn't know about solar power – but should have

In renovating an old farrmhouse, the owner discovers that solar panels can be leased instead of purchased.

By / February 16, 2010

Putting solar panels on the south-facing roof of the barn at Sheep Dog Hollow could provide power for the farmhouse as well.

Joanne Ciccarello/Staff/The Christian Science Monitor


We’ve already broken the bank, so to speak, in our effort to renovate Sheep Dog Hollow in a green and economical manner. We did that when we decided to install a geothermal heating system that cost about $20,000 more than a top-of-the-line oil or gas heating system. The trade-off: big upfront costs versus long-term savings and a clean conscience.

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But now, as I mentioned in my most-recent post, it turns out we could have installed a solar system for zero money upfront – just the cost of our monthly electric bill. Hmmm. Think that was a bit of poor planning on my part?

Connecticut is one of the few states that offer a solar leasing program that allows consumers to install solar panels and pay for them as they would their regular electric bill. (Others include California, Arizona, and Massachusetts, according to the site

There are also about 200 local municipalities that offer similar solar leases, according to Monique Hanis of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a nonprofit trade group in Washington. (You can find out which ones at or

The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which is financed by a small surcharge on the state’s electric utility users, got together with local financial institutions and developed the lease program. The goal is to “…mainstream solar in CT. It is intended to make the ability to install a solar electric system affordable to everyone who owns a home.”

The way it works is simple, and I'll use my current home as an example: A local solar installer from BeFree Solar dropped by one afternoon last week. He looked at my current electric bills and then checked out our barn, where I’d propose installing the panels because it faces directly due south. (The power would be used for both the house and the barn. But the barn's roof is better situated for solar.)

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