Cherry Hill Lane homes getting solar

Through anonymous benefactor
Thu, 11/14/2019 - 6:00pm

On a cold and snowy evening, Block Island Housing Board Chair Cindy Pappas delivered good news to her board. All five of the homes in the Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing development will be equipped with photovoltaic solar systems on their roofs.

“The bottom line: our (anonymous) benefactor will be installing solar panels on every roof,” said Pappas. “I don’t have the timing of that, but I’m assuming it’s going to be later. I doubt they’re going to be working there in December.”

Pappas said that oil tanks and hot water baseboard heating systems would be installed in each dwelling. “The furnace will have a boiler for the domestic hot water. In addition, there will be an electric hot water heater, which can preheat the water for the boiler, or be used on its own with a timer.”

Board member John Spier highlighted efficient use of the system, explaining that the water heater system could be used as an “energy bank” via the timer. Spier said solar generated electricity could be used to heat water “whenever the sun is shining. On a sunny day you should have all of the hot water you would need for hours.”

“We want to keep this simple” for the homeowners, said Spier. “If someone wants to be an active participant, they can flip the switch on cloudy days, and use their electrical appliances wisely during the day” such as “running the dishwasher, laundry. On sunny days, I think they will be able to save a tremendous amount of power” using the solar panels.

Board member Kay McManus asked Spier if the homes in the development would be equipped with backup battery storage systems.

Spier said the homes would not be outfitted with battery storage, because those systems can be complicated for homeowners to operate. “We’re not sure how involved the homeowners are going to want to be,” he said.

Pappas said battery storage systems could be added onto the homes in the future if the homeowners “wanted to do that. But I think the solar arrays, given the size of the houses, won’t necessarily have so much to store.”

“Are you going to install an electric stove, or gas powered” in the homes, asked McManus.

“We will be encouraging people to have electric stoves,” said Pappas, who noted that the other appliances would be electric, such as the refrigerator, dishwasher and microwave. “If somebody says that they can’t deal with an electric stove, well, then they will be paying for the gas hook up. We’re not installing propane.”

Molly Fitzpatrick, the clerk serving in the absence of Millie McGinnes, asked the board what type of photovoltaic systems they would be installing on the homes.

“We’re not quite sure yet,” said Spier, who noted that the specifications for the systems need to be determined.

“We have great orientation,” said Pappas of the direction the panels would be installed on the rooftops. “So, we’re lucky there.”

“So you can do your laundry when the sun is shining,” said McManus.

“You can do it anytime, but if you insist on using an electric dryer, use it on a sunny day,” said Spier.

As for the status of the pending homeowners, who were awarded the homes during the board’s lottery on Oct. 17, Pappas said, “They have all received a purchase and sales agreement. They have all sent in their deposit checks” of $5,000, “and they have been received and processed. They have a complete packet of the easements and covenants.”

“I executed all of the purchase and sales agreements, so they just need to execute and return a copy to us,” noted Pappas. “I’m not aware of anybody returning one back to us yet. So, they have the tools that they need for their attorneys, and for their financing situations.”

Pappas said the board would be hosting a meeting with the new homeowners on Monday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. at Town Hall. “The meeting will be to answer questions about covenants, and easements, and restrictions,” she said. “Their attorneys need to advise them.”

Pappas also said the foundations for the three-bedroom dwellings have been completed, but the two-bedroom homes need to be corrected. “The three are good to go,” said Pappas. The septic system is in. The electric transformers are there.” However, she said when she last visited the site, “the floors had not been poured on foundations one and two.”

Pappas said there was a snafu with the foundation for house number two, as the contractors “put the foundation from house number one on lot number two — in the same orientation, which reversed it,” she said. “So the bedroom was in the front.”

“So, that means you’re coming in the bedrooms and leaving out the back door,” said McManus.

Pappas said the good news was, “There is no charge” to the board to correct the mistake. “We don’t need to worry about it, and gratefully they have agreed to fix that mistake.”

“So we’re in good shape for the boxes to arrive,” said Pappas, noting the arrival of the modular homes that have been constructed by the Warwick-based Pariseault Builders. “Hopefully the ground will freeze so we don’t have a lot of mud. So I think we’re in pretty good shape there.”

The Housing Board selected, through a lottery system, five Block Island residents out of a pool of 12 applicants on Oct. 17 when it held a lottery at Town Hall.

The new homeowners are going through the financial process, with the hopes of moving into their new homes in January of 2020.

The next Housing Board meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 5 p.m.