Beekeeping in Carlisle

Written by Ernie Huberernie

The video link to the TED talk by Marla Spivak on this website is an excellent introduction to what’s happened to US honeybees in recent years and what we can do about it. Marla lays the blame for the disappearance of our pollinators at the doorstep of several sources-(a) lack of good bee nutrition because of loss of diverse food sources and our increasing use of crop monocultures,(b) increases in the number of foreign pathogens which have arrived in the US like the varroa mites, and, most importantly, (c) a change in the types and efficacy of the pesticides which are in use today.

I have been keeping bees for 34 years in Carlisle and have seen many changes through the years. Beekeeping used to be easy before the foreign varroa mites came to Massachusetts in 1988. The first hive that  my kids and I set up in 1979 yielded about 300 lbs. of honey. Beginners luck, perhaps, but a 100 lb. yield  per hive was common  and expected in those days..When the varroa mites (alluded to by Marla Spivak) arrived thelosses the in first year  were cataclysmic- maybe 90% over the State.  A few years later Roger Morse, Chair of the Entomology Department at Cornell, told me that he thought that all of the feral (wild) colonies of honeybees in New England had been wiped out by the mites.

Ernie Huber opening a hive at a house on Westford Road .  All the little dots are bees in the air. (Photo by Steve Kirk.)
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The Little Town That Did

Flash back to the May 3rd edition of the Carlisle Mosquito and its Green Corner submission, The Little Town That Could. That article announced Carlisle’s selection to participate in the state-wide Solarize Mass program. This article is its “bookend” counterpart to share the results of how well we actually did.

Solarize Mass backgrounder

Solarize Mass was developed and sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) with the express mission of increasing the awareness and adoption of solar energy systems throughout the state. Having just completed its third yearly cycle, Solarize Mass has helped overcome the complexities and cost barriers that have traditionally plagued the solar energy market, and in doing so has enabled the addition of more than 1,250 new solar energy systems within 31 Massachusetts cities and towns. The electric energy produced by those solar systems will reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 140,000 tons of CO2 during their operational lifespan.

How well did Carlisle do?

Carlisle was one of ten communities participating in this round of Solarize Mass. I’m pleased to report that 54 Carlisle households took advantage of the program’s attractive pricing and are now en route to solarizing their homes. The town will be adding more than 380 kilowatts of new solar electric capacity to its preexisting 160 kilowatts (i.e., more than a 235% increase), which will reduce Carlisle’s greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 5,700 tons of CO2 over a 25-year period.

Carlisle’s performance in Solarize Mass substantially exceeded the goals and expectations we had envisioned at the outset of the program, which is a testament to the environmental consciousness of our community. With 200 households expressing interest in solar energy—and 54 actually contracting for a system—Carlisle’s solar interest “conversion rate” of 27% led all ten participating communities. Similarly, Carlisle also led all ten communities in the percentage of homes receiving a solar site assessment that went on to contract for a solar system (an impressive 43% of the 127 Carlisle homes that were assessed procured a solar system versus a program-wide average of just 32%).

What’s next for solar in Carlisle?

Despite the town’s excellent level of solar adoption during Solarize Mass, we actually had far more homeowner interest in solarizing than suitable sites to do so. Solar energy systems need to be installed in locations that receive a sufficient number of hours per day of uninterrupted (and unshaded) sun exposure to make their investment financially practicable. We all love our large, wooded lots, but frequently they don’t present an ideal set of ingredients for solarizing.

Given the sizable unfulfilled level of interest in solarizing in Carlisle, the Energy Task Force has already begun considering additional approaches to reduce the town’s dependence and reliance on electric power generated from fossil fuels. One of the options we will be investigating includes installing more solar systems on town-owned buildings (e.g., town hall, fire station, cranberry bog house, adding to the existing school solar system, etc.). Installing a community “solar garden” in town may also be a viable option. The town of Harvard is leading the way as the first city or town in the state to launch such a community resource, serving as a model for other communities (see

In the meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions regarding solar energy in Carlisle, you can continue to reach out to Solarizing in Carlisle isn’t ending with the conclusion of Solarize Mass!

Carlisle ranks 179th with Mean Household Waste 37% higher than the State Average

wasteThe April 2013 release of the MassDEP’s 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan, Pathway to Zero Waste, provides a perfect opportunity to reassess how Carlisle is doing in the area of waste management and recycling. 2012 data from the MassDEP allows a comparison with towns across the state as a starting point in that assessment.

Since recycling programs vary significantly from municipality to municipality, the MassDEP considers annual tons of trash per household (Tons/Hh) the most relevant metric for waste data. Tons/Hh refers to the total tons of waste for any given year that a municipality sends for disposal – minus recycled items and hazardous waste – divided by households served by a town.

Of the 200 municipalities (roughly 57% of the 351 municipalities) in the state that submitted the required data by the time of this article, Carlisle with 1.1 Tons/Hh a year ranks 179th. By comparison, Lincoln, similar to Carlisle in size, demographics, and recycling program, ranks 38th. Additionally, Carlisle’s waste tonnage is 37% higher than the state average of .8 Tons/Hh.

Data: Weighted averages from sample loads of in-state waste sent to six Massachusetts incinerators. Municipal Waste combustor Class II Recycling Program Waste Characterization Studies, February & March 2011, MassDEP.

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Solarize Mass Deadline Extended to October 31st!

Solarize Mass Program Extension

Greetings everyone. There’s nothing quite like a looming deadline to get people’s attention focused, and last week was no exception here in Carlisle. Carlisle homeowners signed on for almost 50 kW of new solar capacity last week as the September 30th Solarize Mass deadline grew closer. But those of you who have been in private communication with me recently know that I’ve been anticipating that MassCEC would end up extending the program through the month of October, and the official decision to do just that was publicly announced on September 25th. You can read MassCEC’s press release on the Solarize Mass program extension here:

As indicated in the press release, this round of Solarize Mass will be extended through October 31st in order to allow homeowners who are already engaged in the consideration of a solar solution through the program (such as most of you) more time to evaluate their options and make an informed decision in a less hurried manner. As I’ve reported previously, we’ve seen a substantial uptick in new solar interest among Carlisleans since the end of August, and I know from personal experience that getting an assessment, evaluating a proposal (or multiple proposals), making a go/no-go decision, researching and figuring out financing options, determining whether or not to undertake re-roofing and/or tree removal, etc. can take a chunk of time. So for those of you who have been feeling rushed by the September 30th deadline, now there’s a bit more breathing room for you to make the decisions that are right for you. Continue reading

Computing the ROI of a Solar Energy System

Whether or not to acquire a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy system can be a tough decision for many people. Finances and economics tend to dominate the overall decision process. But thanks to a variety of both first-year and ongoing incentives, most solar PV energy systems are able to produce annual returns on investment of 10%-20%, along with complete payback of your net upfront expenses within five to seven years.

But how are those figures actually computed, and how do you know what set of system options and assumptions yield the greatest long-term benefits for you? Read this (somewhat longish) posting to find out: Computing the ROI of a Solar Energy System.

High Performance Solar Panels: Extra Oomph for Your Solar System

When you acquire a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, the price you pay is generally based on the combined power capacity of the solar panels in the system (expressed in watts or kilowatts), whereas the financial value you derive from the system stems from the electric energy that it generates over time (expressed in kilowatt-hours). For a brief tutorial on power vs. energy, click here.

The electric energy delivered by a solar system is mostly governed by its rated power capacity, but it’s also fairly dependent on external efficiency-related factors such as the degree of shading that the system experiences, as well as the tilt angle and azimuth of the roof on which it’s installed. As a general rule, it makes prudent financial sense to acquire a solar system with as much power as you can afford (or that your roof will accommodate). That will serve to minimize the duration of your payback period while maximizing your return on investment.

But how much power is enough, and how much is too much? A simple rule of thumb applicable to solar PV energy systems is that each watt of power capacity will generate between 1.0 and 1.2 kilowatt-hours per year of electric energy (depending on the efficiency-related factors mentioned above). That means that a 5 kilowatt solar system (the average size across Massachusetts) will generally produce between 5,000 and 6,000 kilowatt-hours per year of electricity, depending on its efficiency. Continue reading

Momentum Builds for Solar Power!

The momentum of interest in our solarize program continues to build. Here are some statistics through the end of July: Solarize-Chelmsford-Carlisle(Web)

  • Number of Carlisle residences expressing potential interest in a solar energy solution: 86
  • Number of solar site assessments performed in Carlisle: 47
  • Number of solar proposals submitted to Carlisle residences: 33
  • Number of signed Carlisle contracts: 5
  • Total solar capacity under contract: 36.5 kW
  • Average system size: 7.3 kW
  • Current Solarize Mass tier level: 2

The total contracted solar capacity that we achieve by the end of the program in September (combined with that of Chelmsford) will determine the price per watt that every participant in the program will pay for SolarFlair’s base solar PV package. solarflairlogo

Tier Level Contracted Capacity Price per Watt
Tier 1 1-25 kW $3.69
Tier 2 25-50 kW $3.59
Tier 3 50-100 kW $3.49
Tier 4 100-200 kW $3.34
Tier 5 >200 kW $3.14

If you are considering a solar solution for your home—but have not yet scheduled a solar site assessment—you should do so soon in order to beat the last-minute rush.  If you have any questions or need information please feel free to contact me at

Rich Kane, Solar Coach

Carton Recycling Now Available at the Transfer Station

cartonsGot Milk (Cartons)?

Refrigerated cartons for milk, juice, cream, egg substitutes, soy, grain or nut milks can now be accepted as recyclable items at the Transfer Station. Rinsed and flattened refrigerated cartons should be included with plastic recyclables and deposited in the large plastics container at the Transfer Station for proper processing. Please be sure to recycle only refrigerated cartons; tetra paks (shelf stable cartons with aluminum layer) are NOT recyclable in our area at this time.

The Makeup of a Refrigerated Carton

Cartons are mainly made from paper in the form of paperboard, as well as thin layers of polyethylene (plastic). Refrigerated cartons contain about 80% paper and 20% polyethylene. The paperboard in refrigerated cartons is considered high value recycling stock because it is free of print.

By recycling your refrigerated cartons, you’ll be keeping these items out of the trash, reducing waste tonnage destined for the incinerator and conserving valuable resources. Remember, it’s not waste until it’s wasted!


Power vs. Energy for Solar PV Systems

Most technology disciplines have their own lingo and terminology. The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry is certainly no different in that regard, but a lot of its lingo happens to be rooted in the electrical industry.

A solar panel’s sole mission in life is to convert sunlight into electricity, but knowing how that’s technically performed within the solar panel isn’t really something that the typical homeowner needs to master. What is important, however, is your ability to understand how much electricity a solar panel produces, and how that relates to the electricity usage within your home.

Click here to help you decipher some of the most common electrical terminology pertaining to solar PV systems so that you’ll be better equipped to consider and evaluate whether a solar PV system is right for you, as well as what kind (and size) of system might best meet your needs.

Free Air Conditioning

Been running your air conditioner a bit recently? If so, it’s likely that your NSTAR meter has been whirring around like the warp engine in the Starship Enterprise. Why not slow that meter down—way down—by relying on a plentiful, inexpensive, and environmentally conscious way to fuel the cool breezes in your home?

According to NSTAR statistics, the average home in Carlisle uses approximately 50% more electricity during the “dog day” summer months than it does during late spring and early fall. That’s over 400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month of additional electricity consumption for the average Carlisle home, largely attributable to air conditioner usage. With summertime NSTAR rates now exceeding 17 cents per kWh, that’s about $70 per month tacked onto your electric bill for air conditioning alone.

With a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy system, the additional electricity that your home consumes for air conditioning can be nicely offset by the additional PV production achieved during these wonderful sunny summertime days of early sunrises and late sunsets. Your total annual air conditioning usage can likely be accommodated by the production of less than two solar panels alone. With an average-sized Carlisle solar PV system consisting of about 30 solar panels, there would still be plenty of additional solar PV production capacity available to power your “everyday” items like heating, lighting, refrigeration, entertainment, communications, and well water.

With Carlisle’s current participation in the Solarize Mass program, there’s never been a better time to go solar. There are now less than three months left to take advantage of Solarize Mass pricing. Don’t wait for the September rush to the finish line. Sign up today for a free, no-obligation site assessment and begin learning more about how and why a solar energy system can be such a worthwhile addition to your home. See additional information about Solarize Mass posted to the Solar Power section of this Green Carlisle website, or contact for more details.

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