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ITHACA, NY -- Twenty years ago, Rebekah Carpenter was offered a deal: Travel through Mali and Western Africa, while she learns to install off-grid solar systems.

She took the deal, and “20 years later, solar power is a huge part of who I am,” Rebekah said.

Along the way, Rebekah tells us she has ridden the “solar coaster” through subsidy changes,

tax incentives, hikes and drops, technological advancements and “plain old knuckle-busting hard work.”

Her lifestyle, she says, follows her business plan in its off-grid, somewhat unconventional homestead with critters, experiments and travels.

“Some of the major benefits of having stuck through with business ownership and contracting have included opportunities to travel to, volunteer in and teach in Canada, Puerto Rico and, most recently, Haiti, where I have shared my skills with those who have, almost literally,

nothing to their names,” Rebekah said.

She has also maintained relationships with the folks she met in 2001 at her first distributor’s festival at the Real Good’s campus in Hopland, CA.

“Integrating new relationships with old ties, brings new insights, better understanding of technology and an ongoing love of our work,” Rebekah said. “This has fueled my drive to maintain a commitment to this oft-stressful industry.”

Folks for whom Rebekah has designed, installed, and serviced solar systems rave about Rebekah, and her sidekick Louis Russell-Cook. The only glitch? Rebekah and her team are in high demand. But all who have worked with her business, Fingerlakes Renewable, insist the wait is worth it.

Recently Rebekah and Louis took a look at an arbor roofed by “two-faced solar panels” (bifacial — powered by sunlight from above and below the panels). For many years, the arbor panels had powered the family’s electrical needs via generation into the NYSEG grid. But now, the elderly owners wanted to be able to shelter in place in case of an electrical outag were the utility grid to lose power.

Two years after contacting Fingerlakes Renewables, Rebekah enthusiastically informed the couple that the timing was perfect. “Battery integration is much, much easier than it was two years ago.”

After a lively, informative and hilarious conversation, the plan was outlined: Rebekah and her team could add a lithium battery via a hybrid inverter to the current system.

The new battery would supply electricity to the essential home outlets (furnace, a few lights and refrigerator) in case of a power outage.

“The energy storage system (ESS) using a hybrid inverter and lithium storage will transfer seamlessly to a dedicated load panel, which will then stay on in the case of a utility/grid failure,” Rebekah explained. “The dedicated loads are designated by the homeowner as the essential items needed to maintain lights, heat, water, and safety until the power is restored. During a grid outage, the back-up battery will continue to be charged by the solar panels, so long as the sun is up! As soon as power is restored, there is a seamless, automatic switch back to full house power. Sometimes, homeowners are never even aware there was a power outage! In a straight grid-tied solar system, the safety checks in place only allow production of power when the utility grid is functional; the solar panels sit idle otherwise. Until recently, unless you had initially installed a battery back-up system, the costs and rework of the system to add batteries was steep. With the advancement of inverter technology and the development of and deployment of lithium ferro-phosphate batteries, it is now possible to add back-up to existing systems with relative ease.”

Rebekah advised that the back-up battery would refill or “recharge” itself to power the essential outlets as more sunlight was collected.

“In backup mode, the panel will still charge and run the loads,” she said.

How safe is a storage battery in a basement?

“Lithium Technology is very safe. It contains no lead, and therefore, no lead acid to leak out. Lithium batteries do not require venting and there is no thermal runaway.”

Rebekah and Louis had to mosey on to their next appointment, but before they left they mentioned their 10-year 6,000 cycle warranty, along with a Wi-Fi connection to observe what’s going on in “real time” with the backup battery and hybrid inverter system.

As Rebekah and Louis waved goodbye, Rebekah called out: “Store your solar energy in case of an electrical power outage! A great idea!”

To reach Rebekah and her team, visit Fingerlakes Renewables website at www.flenergy.com or call 607-327-0053.

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