New Solar Technology to Be Used on Historic, Sag Harbor Church

Posted on 20 June 2012

By Michael Pintauro

Elizabeth Dow received approval last week from the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) to install photovoltaic shingles on the roof of the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church.

This means that one of the older buildings in Sag Harbor Village is about to install one of the newest kinds of solar technology.

On Thursday, June 14 the ARB agreed to pre-approve the installation of the panels. This is a landmark decision for the ARB, not only because of the new technology Dow is introducing in Sag Harbor with the approval, but also because the church is a landmarked historic structure in the village.

The former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church at 48 Madison has stood at its location for 176 years and recently became the home of Elizabeth Dow’s Mixed Media firm. Dow purchased the property in 2008 and will operate her textile and wall covering design workshop, studio, office and retail location out of the historic church.

As an historic landmark, the structure is subject to the standards and guidelines of the National Parks Service, which has regulations in place to ensure any changes to a landmarked structure protect the building’s historic integrity. On Thursday, the ARB pre-approved Dow’s application for panels because it is a technology that can fit into a historic aesthetic.

The panels, which will be installed by Green Logic Energy, are not traditional solar panels, but are cutting edge photovoltaic shingles. These shingles are designed and built by Dow Chemical Company and are similar in size and thickness to traditional asphalt shingles. They are more expensive and less efficient than solar panels, but their appearance has led to them being approved for installation in historic districts throughout the country.

Currently, the Dow Powerhouse solar shingle is only available in California, Colorado and Texas. According to Elizabeth Dow, the corporation’s agreement to allow the use of its shingles on the old Methodist Church is the first such use of the shingles on a property in New York State.

ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown says the board is presented with about four applications a month for the installation of solar panels within the historic district, but due to federal guidelines the ARB is forced to deny any applications that are visible from the street.

“We don’t really have a choice,” he said. “The guidelines are clear”.

Brown added, however, that he is sympathetic towards homeowners who are looking in the direction of sustainability.

“I think it’s important for buildings to be more energy efficient,” he said, adding he hopes the use of this kind of solar panel will open the door for other solar projects in the historic district.

Joe Sullivan, the Green Logic Energy contractor hired for the installation, said he often runs into issues with historic districts regarding the use of solar panels and respects the importance of historic preservation.

Sullivan represented another client in the Sag Harbor historic district on Thursday night — Curtis Ravanal, who applied for the installation of solar panels on his Howard Street residence, and was approved by the board for only one small section. The rest of the application was denied because the board believed the appearance of solar panels would be offensive amongst the historic building materials.

Sullivan said he hopes to eventually use the Dow Powerhouse shingles for Rayanal’s home if his client approves the purchase of the solar shingles.

Elizabeth Dow, who has no connection with Dow Chemical, is set to stand before the Architectural Review Board at their next meeting, Monday, June 25, with a sample of the Dow Powerhouse Shingle for inspection and final approval.

That meeting will begin at 5 p.m.

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