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Solar power allows islanders to helps neighbors after Irma

By Staff | Sep 27, 2017

The Nygards plan to boost their solar power with a VAWT (Vertical Axis Wind Turbine). Photo provided

When Hurricane Irma cut power to millions of homes and businesses across Florida, long-time Pine Island residents Jay and Kendall Nygard weren’t worried when the power went out. About 7 years ago, they installed solar panels on their home in Bokeelia.

“Our home has a 3 kilowatt rooftop solar system with 12 batteries and a solar hot water system, and since Hurricane Irma hit we have had power at our home,” Kendall Nygard said.

“One of the first things we did was to invite our neighbors and friends from Pine Island and Cape Coral to charge their cell phones, power tools, store food in our refrigerators and freezers and use our washer and dryer,” she said.

Shane Clay, owner of Clay’s Land Clearing, has known the NyGards for several years.

“They were so helpful to anyone that needed emergency power,” Clay said. “We were without power in Cape Coral until yesterday (Monday, Sept. 18) and their help with fuel, refrigeration and even laundry was unbelievable. It’s really amazing that the sun can produce that much power.”

The Nygards bought their Pine Island property shortly before Hurricane Charley in 2004.

“My husband is a mechanical engineer and president of the family company, Go Green Energy LLC,” Kendall said.

Jay Nygard is an engineer who specializes in power and propulsion.

“We were looking for a business of the future and something to use his expertise in,” Kendall said. “One night while having dinner at Sandy Hook, we decided that ‘going green’ and solar power was it. After lots of discussions we established Go Green Energy LLC in 2008.”

Power on Pine Island went out for most islanders during the storm. When the power went out at the Nygards, however, their solar system immediately kicked in to run what they call the essentials: fans, hot water heater, refrigerator, Internet and just about everything else except the air conditioning and stove.

“We survived 7 days without LCEC electric,” Kendall said. “Our solar system supplies about 60 percent of the home’s needs. The system can run the air conditioning but not everything all at the same time so we prioritized.”

“I think it’s important for our fellow islander’s to know that if we ever encounter another situation like Hurricane Irma there are environmentally friendly alternatives to gas generators,” she said.

“I’m glad we were able to help so many people with power,” Kendall said. “There are so many ways people can save money and at the same time have power in a crisis. In addition to the solar that powers the house we have a solar powered fan in the attic that will reduce the cost of heating and cooling the house. A solar-powered 50-gallon hot water heater so even when the power is out you can still take a hot shower.”

The Nygards plan on installing a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine in their front yard. Unlike the wind turbines with the large propellor blades, these turbines are quiet, more efficient, economical and better for residential energy production.

“They look like upside down egg beaters,” Kendall said. “We really wish we had it up for Hurricane Irma to prove the point.”