Locals Jump With Their Heads, Hearts Into Green Energy

BERLIN – Sometimes the only way to address a problem is to offer up the most sensible solution.

For Todd Dehart and Jeb Deickman, co-owners of Berlin-based Veridian Builders, they have not only heard all the complaints about the ridiculously high electric bills in Berlin, but they have also made some of those complaints themselves when they opened their monthly bills.

In an economy which has virtually slowed the building business to a crawl, if not a halt, Dehart and Deickman thought that the time was as good as ever to make the jump into a venture they had been hoping to delve into since they started their careers in this area 12 years ago: green energy resources.

With a handful of installations under their belt, the pair is trying to spread the word on their new venture and make people as comfortable as they are intrigued by green energy, and perhaps in the process, help move a region that is traditionally stuck in the past onto the “wave of the future.”

“It’s past the point of can it work,” said Dehart. “Now the only tripping point is whether or not people can afford the initial investment and that pays itself back in a pretty short amount of time, which is why we try to be so helpful in telling them about all the tax breaks and grant options throughout the process.”

Dehart said that installing green technology like solar panels on a home is much like installing any other appliance, in that you need to find where it fits best in order to get the most out of it, and unlike many installers, Dehart says that he and Deickman won’t just install the panels and cash the check.

“We are taking the whole ‘end-to-end’ approach, such as the design, the aesthetics on your property, long-range planning and we will walk people through all the technical aspects and the financial planning so they can stay excited about the savings and feel a bit better about whatever sense of uncertainty there is still about this,” said Dehart.

As far as grants and incentives go, there is a 30-percent federal tax credit for installing alternative energy sources like solar panels or a wind turbine on your personal or commercial property, and there are substantial grants in the state of Maryland up to $10,000 depending on the scope of the project.

Veridian’s cost breakdown in their promotional packet cite a 10-year payback in a 5 kilowatt solar panel system, noting a $34,671 total cost, minus almost $17,600 in governmental incentives and up to $1,800 a year in savings on the investment itself.

Based on those numbers, especially in the case of governmental incentives, there has been a few notable solar and wind turbine projects in the area such as Park Place Hotel in downtown Ocean City, which installed roof-top solar panels last fall and Nantuckets Restaurant, which recently installed both a wind turbine and roof-mounted solar panels.

On the residential front, Deickman and Dehart hope that as the economy starts to slow its decline and hopefully turn around sooner than later, residents who may be looking to renovate their homes rather than buy new ones, should seriously look at green energies.

“Anyone that lives in Berlin and Ocean City should certainly put it on their shortlist of things to do for their home, because we basically live here because of the sun, and structurally, there are a lot of roofs that would be perfect for solar panels,” said Deickman. “In Berlin, for instance, solar would be far more advantageous than wind, even though some of the grants for wind are even more appealing than the ones for solar right now.”

For Berlin residents, who continue to sing the “electric bill blues” as their local electric plant sits millions of dollars in the hole, Deickman and Dehart hope to build their business essentially from their own backyards as small town business owners trying to improve the quality of life for their small town neighbors.

“Berlin has always been a concern of mine, and I’ve been to a few of the meetings downtown concerning the PCA (power cost adjustment) issues,” said Deickman. “What I got from it, is that we are paying the PCA charge to keep these generators online, and pay the employees to sit there and watch the computer and wait for a rate where it makes sense to turn the generators on for an hour or so a day.”

Deickman and Dehart installed the solar panels on a West Ocean City residence and they said that they were there on the day their clients received their first bill.

“The day that our first client got his check from the government for his grants was the same day his first electric bill came after the panels were installed, and it was a credit for $7, so obviously, our client was ecstatic,” said Dehart.

It appears that for Veridian, which actually translates to “the state of being green”, the hard sell for their new eco-friendly venture is not so much to prove the worth of the product that they will install, it’s convincing people that the investment is prudent and doable now rather than later.

“I think that people are still on the fence about it, because it’s still at the trailblazer point right now,” said Dehart, “but we try to be realistic with the numbers when we walk people through it so they have a good experience in greening their homes or businesses, which thankfully most people acknowledge now as being good for the environment and the pocket book.  But, we don’t want this to be a flash in the pan, we want this to be a sustainable business.”

For more information on Veridian builders, click to www.veridiandesignbuild.com