NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Pete Rappoccio knew he wanted solar panels on Sign Pro’s new building.
It was 2018. The manufacturing facility was set to be about 40,000 square feet, housing printers and welders. Solar wasn’t a very common feature at the time, but it was a fresh site, and he knew it was time to take the leap.
“It was always something I looked at, and I looked forward to as a possibility,” he said.
About 890 solar panels went onto that roof in Plantsville — enough to power 1,340 houses. Since then, the business has tripled its number of employees, built another facility and is using the extra electricity it’s generated to power a new electric vehicle fleet.
“It’s pretty huge,” Rappoccio said.
From the beginning, that meant not having to pay the supply portion of the company’s Eversource bill. After adding a solar bank to store that extra energy to use at night, Sign Pro is now completely off the grid.
“We’ve been very happy with our solar program and what we’ve done is any surplus money, we’ve reinvested into our company,” Rappoccio said.
It’s a gamble that has already paid for itself, with the cost of the new storage bank alone recouping the price of the investment within four months.
And with Connecticut electric companies increasing prices by 50% this year, Rappoccio is glad for that decision he made just a few years ago. He now advocates for other businesses to also make the switch.
“If you see the amount that comes back, it’s amazing,” he said.
In 2006, early solar adopters jumped onboard because of the technology’s way to reduce their carbon footprint.
Bill Colonis remembers celebrating the Connecticut Green Bank’s 100th solar installation. Now, there are more than 50,000 systems in the state as residents add panels to their roofs to both become greener, and reduce those rising utility bills.
“It’s been much more accepted, and the homeowners that have gotten into it, they’re from a wide variety of backgrounds, young and older,” said Colonis, who works on the residential program side of the green bank. “People want to, you know, decrease their carbon footprint. People want to, you know, hopefully save some money, or at least lock in a portion of their electric bill at a certain rate.”
He’s heard more interest in solar lately, which is unusual for the winter months. Those homeowners, he said, are “obviously concerned” about their electric rates.
“It’s significant for homeowners,” Colonis said. “So, the interest obviously is still there.”
The reason behind the switch may be more monetary-driven than before. And, with multiple tax incentives for homes — including through utility companies — it’s also more affordable than before.
“Every homeowner has a different reason for why they would be looking for energy efficiency measures or solar,” said Sara Pyne, a senior manager on the incentives program team for the Connecticut Green Bank.
Before committing to solar panels, Colonis recommends researching options, including getting quotes from at least three companies, comparing different contractors and looking into financing options and incentives, like the smart-e loan.
For those who aren’t building a home or replacing a roof, there are other measures to lower bills in the meantime. Colonis suggests beginning with an energy audit to immediately learn how to make a difference.
“It’s lightbulbs, it’s insulation,” he said. “It’s air leakage. There’s a whole laundry list, and there’s professionals out there that can really help guide you in that.”