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Greenwich Man Harnesses Sun to Power Home, Car

GREENWICH, Conn. – Greenwich resident and real estate broker Ken Edwards says he likes the idea of “beating the system” by having 48 solar panels to power his home and his Tesla Roadster.

“I had this dream about riding free. Now obviously no one is going to give me a free car or pay to put the panels up, but the operating cost is free,” said Edwards. “If you have a car that doesn’t require any servicing and only $48 to register, right away you’re starting to see some real savings.”

Every morning at 10, his Tesla Roadster is set to start charging from two inverters in his garage. “By then the sun is high enough that I’m generating enough electricity to charge my car and power my house,” said Edwards, standing next to his car bearing the vanity license plate “SUNPWR.” When totally depleted, the car takes four-and-a-half hours to charge but typically it only needs about 10 minutes.

The Tesla Roadster is almost three times as efficient as an internal combustion-powered vehicle and twice as efficient as a Toyota Prius, says Edwards, who bought Roadster in July 2009. It initially cost Edwards $109,000, with a $7,500 federal tax credit. By not spending a dime on gasoline and through Connecticut Light & Power, his car costs him 2.45 cents per mile.

“We’re using the sun to pre-heat water and heating my swimming pool, which saves natural gas on both sides. We’re using the sun to power my house and my car and for the neighborhood when it’s more than the house needs,” he said.

Each panel on Edwards’ home generates a peak of 225 watts of power. The 48 panels on his home have the capacity to generate a total of 10,800 watts. There are also four solar thermal collectors below each panel for pre-heating water that goes into his tank-less water heater, which heats water as needed to save energy.

From November 2009 to March 2011, Edwards' solar panels generated 10,161,000 watts of power. He estimates he has reduced emissions equivalent to not driving 16,699 miles in a standard car and not producing 16,863 pounds of carbon dioxide.

After purchasing the photovoltaic solar panels, he got a 30 percent federal tax credit, a Connecticut Clean Energy Fund rebate and a $41,000 Enerbank loan to help shoulder the burden.

Edwards holds a master's degree of science in engineering from New York University and works at the Cos Cob real estate agency Edwards & Associates. On the side, he sells synthetic grass, which covers the lawn around his home. The turf doesn’t need to be watered and he never has to spray with harmful chemicals that seep into the ground. “I just know it can’t be good, just like I know tailpipes can’t be good. If you stand behind a bus it’s obvious,” said Edwards.

In the future, he hopes to harness geothermal energy. By July, his wife is set to receive a seven-passenger electric sedan to replace her Lexus. Edwards said, “Right now, we have a hybrid garage, but soon we’ll be all electric.”

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