He says he is first and foremost a scientist. Bob Fuller of Chilmark studied marine biology as an undergraduate, before earning master’s degrees in aquaculture and aquatic pathology.

Six years ago, his studies shifted from the sea to the sky when he became interested in renewable energy. His company, Fullers Energy, does everything from energy evaluations to solar and geothermal installations, and he is thrilled to have found a business that provides a livelihood while helping Islanders save money and protecting the environment. Solar energy is a big part of his business and he says business is good.

How do I know if solar is the right move for me?

The only way you can get a sense of the actual value of solar for you is if someone comes to your house, gets up on your roof, and does a shade analysis. The company then develops an ROI (return on investment) estimate to show what your system is going to produce in electricity. Some off-Island companies just do the analysis from satellite photos. In my opinion that is not enough. There’s a lot more to it.

I know prices of systems vary but what is the price range to own a system for an average home?

Prices do vary, but the average range is from $35,000 to $45,000. And with a $35,000 system, we estimate it pays for itself in four and a half years.

That’s a hefty price tag, but there are tax benefits and cash incentives, yes?

Absolutely. There’s a new solar loan program from the state to help homeowners. You can borrow (some or all of) the cost of the system, and pay over ten years, at a rate of below three per cent. And frankly, the federal tax credit you get, the credits you get for sending any energy you don’t use back to the grid, and other incentives make the system almost pay for itself.

What do you love about your work?

I love changing technology. For example, I just installed tracking panels on two homes up Island. These lay down flat when not in use, then rise up, turn towards the sun and follow it all day, then lay down flat at night. If they sense too much wind, they lay down. If they sense more than two inches of snow, they go straight up, wiggle and the snow falls off. They are super-efficient too.

What do you fear that could harm your business?

The incentives and tax breaks can change. Energy is big business and some utilities and others want these breaks reduced. It’s politics. So I tell customers to act now if they want to install solar.

Should we make room for more of the larger, solar installations on the Island?

Absolutely. Having solar, as long as it is in the right place, and designed the right way, is always important. It does the right thing for the environment and is a financial investment for people that actually works.

Paula Lyons is a former ABC and CBS television consumer journalist who is now semi-retired and lives in Vineyard Haven.