Driving on Route 25 in Aquebogue, you’ve most likely seen an array of solar paneling outside of , one of the first solar companies to take hold on Long Island located next to the intersection of Route 25 and 105.
Owner Gary Minnick founded the business in 1979 during the nation’s second oil crisis and the beginning of a rush of interest in solar technology. Minnick, a 65-year-old resident of Flanders, has actually been designing and installing a variety of solar electric and solar thermal systems since 1974, and he continues to enjoy turning people on to solar to this day.
For the fourth year in a row, Minnick will provide solar power for the lights and band equipment on the stage at at Mattituck’s Strawberry Fields this weekend. He said he likes to “always be doing something” with solar, whether it’s demonstrating how a solar-powered battery can run an air conditioner (“We can waste power for free,” he said), taking his solar-powered educational trailer around to schools, or doing major rooftop installations like he did a few years ago for
Patch asked Minnick a few questions before this weekend’s event.
Patch: What sort of projects keep you the busiest these days?
Minnick: Home installations and LIPA net metering, mostly. I like working with residents more than corporate, it’s nice to be able to introduce someone to solar and have them benefit from it. Right now I’m working on a solar-powered boat I want to take around Long Island — 10 years ago we did the same thing and it took us 11 days. This time I’m shooting for five days and would like to get college students on board, use it as an educational vessel.
Patch: Tell me what got you interested in solar in the first place.
Minnick: The oil embargo in 1973. There wasn’t much to go on back then except a couple of articles in Popular Science magazine, how solar heating worked, things like that. I just started playing with solar and it eventually lead to the business.
Patch: Times have been a bit of a roller coaster for solar since the mid-70s — how have you stayed afloat for all these years?
Minnick: I’ve been doing solar 100 percent since 1998, but the mid-80s were the dark ages — in 1985, when Regan killed solar tax credits. In those days, I did a lot of service calls and took a second job. It was a struggle.
Patch: How would you describe the new enthusiasm for solar power of today compared with what you started with in the 1970s?
Minnick: The new generation of solar power is so tied to the Long Island Power Authority with — but what LIPA gives out is not always clean power. We use batteries here — to power the house, to charge battery-powered cars, to power bands at festivals. A solar battery is also ideal for contractors — they can build at a site all day and not use one drop of gas to power a generator. I like to be able to get out and show people how these things work.
The is an outdoor celebration of green living with green vendors and live music on a solar powered stage on Strawberry Fields in Mattituck. The hours are: 9/14: 5 to 9 p.m., 9/15: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., 9/16: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 9/17: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click here for the entertainment line-up.