Real Estate: Building a greener greenhouse in Aquebogue

03/31/2013 8:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Carl Gabrielsen (left) with GreenLogic energy consultant Dan Malone in Gabrielsen Farms’ West Lane, Aquebogue, greenhouse.

Carl Gabrielsen is hoping to make his greenhouse on West Lane in Aquebogue even greener.

Mr. Gabrielsen owns Gabrielsen Farms, which grows flowers and plants in greenhouses on Herricks Lane in Jamesport and West Lane in Aquebogue, and is building a solar panel system at the Aquebogue site that he says will eventually end up eliminating his electric bill.

Working with Dan Malone, an energy consultant from GreenLogic Energy in Southampton, Mr. Gabrielsen is installing about 400 solar voltaic panels behind the West Lane greenhouse to generate about 60 kilowatts of power.

“It’s basically a $200,000 project, but there’s a 30 percent federal tax credit that’s available and LIPA has a solar energy rebate of $1.30 per watt used,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. He estimates he will lay out about $37,000 initially but believes the project will have paid for itself in five years through the energy savings.

“My feeling is that anything in the greenhouse that can pay itself off in five years, you have to do it,” said Mr. Gabrielsen, brother of Riverhead Councilman George Gabrielsen. “But there’s two sides to the equation. There’s the economical reason, which is why I’m doing it, and there’s also the environmental reason. The lifetime carbon dioxide reduction from this is 2.7 million pounds over 30 years.”

GREENLOGIC COURTESY PHOTO | A ground-mounted solar array similar to the one that will be installed on Gabrielsen Farms’ Aquebogue greenhouse.

“That’s the equivalent of planting 17 acres of trees,” Mr. Malone said.

The solar panels will generate more electricity than needed at some times of the year and less during others. Any surplus energy goes back into the grid, and Mr. Gabrielsen gets a rebate for that amount.

The LIPA program doesn’t allow people to generate power for the sole purpose of selling it to LIPA, Mr. Malone said.

“We can only design our systems up to 105 percent,” he said.

Mr. Gabrielsen expects that over the course of a year his electric costs should fall to zero.

“It averages out over 12 months,” he said. “It’s a great benefit for agriculture out here.”

The solar panels are currently being installed and Mr. Gabrielsen, a member of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, intends to give his fellow commissioners a tour of the West Lane operation in early April, by which time the solar panels will be further along. He expects the system to be operating by June.

“It’s not just the solar energy,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. He’s also recycling the water he uses at the greenhouse, and he has been using what’s called integrated pest management for the past five years.

That’s when you introduce “beneficial insects” that will kill off insects that are harmful to the plants.

“We’ve cut our pesticide use by 95 percent,” he said.

Mr. Gabrielsen, whose family has been involved in farming on Long Island for more than 200 years, said he had wanted to install solar panels at his Jamesport greenhouse as well but doesn’t have enough land left at that site.

tgannon@timesreview.com