The Oyster Blog

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Anderson’s Neck Oyster Company has no electricity, which is a huge obstacle. The old plantation home and the various outbuildings that once stood on the property have all collapsed after centuries of neglect. These structures were never wired for the modern world.

In order to address this problem, I contacted the local electricity provider, Dominion Virginia Power. One of their technicians came out to meet me at the site. At this meeting, I received an overwhelming amount of highly technical, and often conflicting electro-babble speak.

When I asked the Dominion representative to please put what he told me into writing, I could see the look of terror in his eyes. Apparently he didn’t really have a handle on what he was saying, and throwing out all kinds of jargon was his only way of glossing over his lack of command of the regulations. After going back and forth with this gentleman for 3 months via written email exchanges, I was finally able to tease out the following facts and conclusions.

Fact 1: Dominion Prevents Businesses and Farms from Starting Up. Dominion has no obligation to cover any costs whatsoever with running power to Virginia’s farms and businesses despite having been granted a monopoly by the Commonwealth of Virginia to supply power to all business users with no competition. I find that to be ironic, if not downright idiotic. Why would Virginia politicians have agreed to this?

Fact 2: Dominion is Forced to Subsidize 100% of the Power Installation Costs For Residential Builders. Uh, what politician got paid off by a residential developer to create this asinine rule? Why should residential home builders be treated differently than farms or businesses?

So based upon the facts above, the Dominion representative left me two basic options, listed in no particular priority of relative stupidity.

Option 1: Change our plans and begin building a house at the farm. Dominion would therefore gladly install power free of charge by cutting a 30 foot wide swath through two miles of Virgin forest to run power poles.

Option 2: Pay Dominion approximately $500,000 to cut a 30 foot hole through two miles of virgin forest so our farm would have power. Dominion would then have exclusive rights to charge us whatever rate they and the Commonwealth of Virginia decided to charge as time progressed.

I chose Option 3: Call Bernie the solar dude, from Shockoe Solar.

So Bernie Stanley is wildly enthusiastic about solving problems, and boy did we have logistical problems to solve. I greatly enjoyed his enthusiasm considering the number of challenges we faced.

With that having been said, the first disclaimer I must provide is that solar is complicated. You have to calculate precisely what your usage requirements are for each piece of equipment that is to be powered by solar. The systems are not flexible or easily adaptable without significant upgrade costs. I easily became frustrated with endless questions about amperage and voltage specifications for each item I intended to power, with very little cooperation from the suppliers in providing accurate answers. Bernie was much more accustomed to this process as this was something to which he had grown familiar. He simply powered through the roadblocks by searching endlessly until he obtained the information he needed. Thank goodness for that, as I had little patience for the mind numbing minutiae that required investigation given everything else I was juggling related to the farm. Bernie did not relent however.

Thanks to Bernie, we now have power consisting of a solar array, battery bank, inverter, and just shy of half a mile of cable running along our dock to power our boat lifts and all the various farm items at our shed. We are proud to report this was done with no tree cutting as Dominion proposed.  This solar project came at an approximate cost of $36,000, which is a far cry from the Dominion solution of $500,000. Plus, we will have no ongoing electricity bills going forward. We will however, need to replace broken solar components as they invariably wear out over time. Nonetheless, we still would choose solar. Solar allowed us to tell Dominion to go fly a kite. And so we did.

And therefore, Solar Is Power. Power that is, over your own destiny. Take that Dominion.

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