Boatyard revolves around its solar system

Posted on Written by Jack Atzinger

22_solarsystem_01Word quickly spread two years ago when the Kingman Yacht Center set up what was then the largest solar power system on Cape Cod. The boatyard in the Cataumet section of Bourne, Mass., heard from school groups, the local chamber of commerce and businesses that wanted to see the new system in action, says company president Scott Zeien.

“The thing about solar, though, is that there’s really nothing to see — no moving parts or whirring blades, just panels on the roof and a big metal box with a red light,” he says. “Many who came to view the future of renewable energy left disappointed that it wasn’t more exciting.”

Excitement may not be something the solar-powered system generates, but it is doing what Zeien wants it to do: saving the boatyard money on electricity costs. “Exactly two years into the operation of our solar system, we have generated 233,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, reducing our carbon footprint by 291,000 pounds, almost exactly on projection and resulting in savings of $45,000 in electricity costs over the period, or about 22 percent of our total electric bill,” he says.

Beaumont Solar, of New Bedford, Mass., installed the system and, on Dec. 22, 2009, a technician from the Massachusetts-based electric and gas utility NStar connected it to the grid. No longer merely an energy user, Kingman became capable of producing electricity for others to use, although Zeien says the boatyard hasn’t done much of that. “There have been a few days in March and April when we’ve fed power back into the grid, but we’re using more than we generate most of the time,” he says.

22_solarsystem_02Kingman’s system was an $830,000 project, but a rebate, federal grant and tax breaks reduced Kingman’s net cost to $85,000, which Zeien says the boatyard should be able to recoup in less than five years at the current rate of energy savings. The rebate came from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Renewable Energy Trust and was based on the number of kilowatts the system produces. The grant came from a federal program that, for a limited time, offered money in lieu of investment tax credits. An IRS provision that allowed accelerated depreciation of the system produced significant tax savings.

Zeien has been pleased with the results of the investment. “I can think of no reason, other than upfront capital costs, not to use a marina’s real estate to make power from the sun,” he says. “The effort is in keeping with our roles as stewards of the environment, the public relations benefits are significant, and it reduces long-term operating costs. Upfront costs can be offset by state and federal programs, and service and maintenance costs are negligible.”

The American Boat Builders & Repairers Association gave the yard an award for excellence in safety and environmental practices last July for installing the solar system. “KYC has always been one step ahead of the environmental regulations,” ABBRA president Pam Lendzion said as she presented the award. “Their commitments to biodiesel fuels, recycling pressure-washing runoff, and capturing and filtering stormwater are all examples of the yard’s commitment to doing the right thing environmentally.”

The Kingman operation consists of a marina with 235 slips and 130 moorings, a fuel dock, a full-service yard offering winter storage and a yacht brokerage. It was established in 1932 and is the largest marina on Cape Cod, with 25 full-time, year-round employees. Diversifying its operations has enabled Kingman to grow since 2009, Zeien says. Overall revenue in 2011 was about where it was in 2008, the boatyard’s best year, he adds, declining to give specific numbers.

Next up for Kingman is a facility that would treat human waste from the marina and the adjacent neighborhood in Bourne and reduce nitrogen in Red Brook Harbor on the eastern shore of Buzzards Bay by 70 percent, Zeien says. “That won’t be very exciting to look at either,” he says.

Kingman will build the wastewater treatment facility — it’s in the design and permitting stage — and would like to turn it over to Bourne to operate as a “beta” for other lower-density areas of the town that need solutions to nitrogen problems, Zeien says.

Building the infrastructure to tie in neighborhood homes would have to be a partnership with Bourne, Zeien says, and there may be grant money for that $2 million to $4 million project.

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue.

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