Solar pioneers observe an anniversary
“Solar pioneers observe an anniversary” by Ken Cashman
(Reprinted with permission from The Cornwall Local)
The Patak family held an open house last weekend to observe the 10th anniversary of their home being energized by solar panels.
If that sounds unusual we should mention that Chris Patak is now a project manager for the company, Hudson Solar, that did the installation.
He and his wife Kimberly moved from Brooklyn to Cornwall in 2005. The difference in miles wasn’t tremendous, but the change in lifestyle was enormous.
The couple settled on Sunset Drive, a wooded road that is barely wide enough for two cars. The home they bought needed a lot of work. “That’s putting it mildly,” Mr. Patak claimed 10 years later. “Ramshackle might be a better description.”
Two things happened while they were fixing their house. Their daughter Sydnee was born, and a friend from the north end of Dutchess County told them about solar energy.
Without much convincing, the family decided to try solar panels. “We’ve always been green minded,” Mr. Patak recalled, “and the state was offering incentives.”
Even so, the Pataks felt like pioneers. At the time, there were very few homes in Orange County that were powered by solar energy.
The contractor installed 45 solar panels on the family’s roof, and tried to schedule the work for times when the baby wasn’t sleeping. There were just a few glitches when the job was completed.
The couple had to fill out forms for the utility company, and there were no experienced people to help them — since none of their neighbors had converted to solar energy.
The other problem resulted from wildlife. Mr. Patak discovered that the squirrels were chewing on the wires. The company resolved the issue by putting up guards to keep the animals away. Since then, the guards have become a standard part of every installation.
While the job was in progress, Mr. Patak enrolled in a course on solar energy, which eventually led to his change in occupation. He had previously worked in the film industry. For a while he commuted to Brooklyn, before switching to his current employer.
On April 24, he put an “open house” on the corner of Sunset Drive and waited for visitors. The people who came got tote bags and thermos bottles as well as a peek at the Patak electric bill. For the last two months, the family of five (Sydnee now has twin sisters) spent $49 on electric. “That’s typical,” Mr. Patak told us. “We’ve been spending an average of $25 a month. It started off good, and it just got better.”