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February 28, 2013

For wife's 50th, man offers the gift of sunshine

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — Andy Gilbert might have gotten his wife, Maureen, diamonds or a vacation for her 50th birthday. Instead, he's arranged to install 30 solar panels on the roof of their New England home.

Maureen Gilbert said it's "the gift that will keep on giving."

The Gilberts are counting on tax credits and rebates to offset the cost of the $47,700 rooftop array, believed to be the largest residential solar system in Newburyport.

The system won't totally keep them off the electric grid. But it should lead to enough savings that the family recoups the cost within eight years.

“If we can get our (three) boys to turn off the lights, we can really save on energy,” joked Maureen Gilbert.

The Gilberts are going solar as part of a citywide effort that so far has recruited about 40 homes and businesses to alternative energy.

And, truth be told, the gift was hardly a surprise. With strangers clambering atop the house for four days to install the solar panels, how could it be?

Andy Gilbert, a regional manager for a packing company, said he and his wife settled on the idea together.

“When her birthday was coming up, we talked about a gift such as jewelry or a trip, but we chose the solar system,” he said. “We plan to stay in this house for many years, and installation of solar makes sense when looking at the future.”

Maureen Gilbert said she's thrilled.

“We’re a green family, with composting, a garden, wood heating, and we’ve talked about solar for years,” she said. "… Our house gets so much sunlight, it would be a waste not to take advantage of it.”

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Details for this story were reported by the Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.

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