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The Solar Panels That Saved My House

By Ingrid Helt Ocean Grove, NJ

"In September 2009, Ecological Systems sent a great team to my house on Bath Ave in Ocean Grove, NJ. They installed 41 SOLAR PANELS on my roof- the second solar installation in Ocean Grove, NJ. Ecological Systems had also done the first SOLAR PANELS in town, for one of Ocean Grove's hotels. The approval process was difficult in our Landmark community. To my dismay, we were required to hide the beautiful panels. MR SKY SIMS and his team did a superb job. They took care of all the special requirements there were imposed by the township, the Electric Company, and the State of NJ. By January 2010, everything had been approved by all the Authorities involved and I could finally stand at my electric meter and watch it spin in reverse. That's where this story might have ended.

But, on Saturday, March 13, 2010, I was getting ready to drive to Manhattan at 5am, when the Fire Department knocked on my door. They told me to get out fast- an inn on my street was on fire. I looked out my window, the fire seemed small and far away. I was convinced it could be under control in no time- but a storm blew our way. My neighbors and I looked in disbelief when one house after another caught fire. All together, ten landmarks were damaged and seven were completely destroyed.

img I am a member of Pete Seger's environmental organizations, which include New Jersey Friends of the Clearwater. I have always done whatever I could do to save energy and insulate my homes, but it has never paid back in such a big and unexpected way as here, during this FIRE on March 13. The FIRE first swallowed a wooden stairway outside my house and then proceeded through my (asbestos) siding and my outer walls. It didn't make it inside because 14 years ago I had installed an extra layer of sheet rock to my outer walls to save energy. But my neighbor's flat roof was vulnerable.

img We watched in horror as burning debris from my neighbor's house kept falling on my roof; the same kind of debris that caused their house to stat burning. The Fire Department was inside my house, using my windows to hose down the other houses. Someone could have gotten hurt if our roof had caught on fire.

img Miraculously, my house survived with about $200,000 of damage. I think it is ironic that without neighboring houses my SOLAR PANELs are now in full view. After the FIRE, my handyman and I inspected the roof. We discovered that the SOLAR PANELS had caught ALL the burning embers. And they were still operating!"