HUGHESVILLE - Green energy is gaining in popularity in the region, and powering places and empowering people worldwide.
Several green and clean energy companies set up shop at the Lycoming County Fair this week, one of which was International Technical Electric & Construction, also known as I-TEC.
President Tom Garber founded the all-volunteer, Montoursville-based organization in 1988, whose goal is to power missions worldwide.
Their 20-foot solar power container prototype was unveiled at the fair Friday. Funded by donations, after the self-contained power unit is built, it'll be shipped to Mt. Hope, Burundi, Africa to provide 24-hour clean power to a ministry for widows in that war-ravaged country, where they will learn to sew - a life-saving skill, Garber said. The facility currently operates on two hours of power daily.
Cogan Station resident Mike Fisher, of Fisher Solar, is I-TEC's solar team leader who has volunteered since 2009, doing projects for about eight trips ranging from solar power for hospitals, training centers, youth camps and radio stations. The difference the projects make for hospitals is life and death.
"When hospitals have electricity 24/7, people don't die," Fisher said bluntly.
Also on the fairway is Hughesville-based Hans Cedardale Satellite, which has been in operation since 1984, but started offering solar services two years ago. Tammy Hans, daughter of owner Keith Hans, said they offer two types of solar services: Photovoltaic on roofing to lower energy bills and solar thermal to heat water.
"For people who use oil or gas, this is a great way to supplement both," she said.
They've done nine solar projects so far in Lycoming and Northumberland counties. While the initial investment can be pricey - $10,000 to $11,000 - tax credits and rebates can ease that to about $4,000, which is recovered within less than a decade with the energy savings it afford, Hans said. About 20 percent of people's electric bill goes toward heating water; the solar thermal system would eliminate that cost, she said.
Bob Lundy, equipment sales rep for Superior Plus Energy Services at the fair, said propane is a clean fuel to use and saves customers money with its 95-percent condensing furnace. "You're getting 95-percent efficiency out of fuel burning using natural gas with very little heat loss," Lundy said. A chimney flue with the same fuel produces only in the low 80s for efficiency percentage. Oil gives merely an 85-percent efficiency, he said.
"Propane and natural gas are the cheapest and most efficient" energy sources, Lundy said, noting the cost of propane per gallon is currently $1.99 for whole-home heat, and $3.70 per gallon for heating oil. To heat a 2,000-square-foot home with propane is about $800 cheaper than oil a year, sales rep Josh McClain said.