"Ray"sing the roof: going solar in Binghamton

By Erika Mahoney
By Michelle Costanza

May 5, 2014 Updated May 5, 2014 at 10:18 PM EDT

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The solar energy craze has reached Binghamton, and residents are quickly discovering the benefits that come with it.

California and Arizona receive nearly double the amount of sunny days as Greater Binghamton, but the expansion of solar panels across the Twin Tiers is making it evident that even though we aren't the birthplace of solar energy, we still have more than enough functional sunlight to change the way we plug in.

"They are the future of what we will see in generations to come. I wish more people would explore it and see what it's all about," said Charles Westgate, Director of the Binghamton University Solar Center.

Westgate runs the lab that manages 508 solar panels across the roof of the BU Innovative Technologies Complex. In addition to graduate education, the lab is a world leader in research of earth-abundant solar cells.

Panels containing the photovoltaic cells are incredibly durable. Built to sustain 90mph winds, hail, and snow, they are even strong enough to walk on. In addition to withstanding Southern Tier winters, the panels have a lifetime of at least 25 years.

The Patterson family recently installed panels to power their home, and a year later, they say the change has been about more than just an electricity source.

"Just to say we are doing something great for our earth, for our children, it feels good," said John Patterson of Binghamton.

Going green isn't the only reason to switch to solar. Patterson said the clean energy movement has also had a big impact on his wallet.

"I pay no supply charge at all, I pay the basic electric line charge, which is about $15.08 per month," the rest, said Patterson, is money well saved.

And it just keeps getting better. The State of New York is pushing sun-power by putting incentives on the table.

With solar energy at $1 per watt, Adam Flint of Southern Tier Solar Works did the math to prove just how well these environmentalists are making out.

"A typical system is about 7,000 (watts). So that's $7,000 off and there's a combined 55 percent tax credit from the state and federal governments," Flint explained.

Southern Tier Solar Works has additional incentives for those who opt to utilize the rays on their roof. Through education and exposure, the company hopes to double the number of solar panels across Broome and Tioga counties in one year.

STSW is holding community workshops where people can learn more about solar panels. Click here to be directed to their website and list of workshop events.

The next meeting will be held at the Vestal Public Library on Wednesday, May 7 from 7 to 9 p.m.