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As a high-level amateur athlete, Jay Gump has won bike races, triathlons, and road races. He holds a PhD. in physiology and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Gump spent years as a coach, training everyone from weekend warriors to some of the world’s top athletes.
A Tennessee native, Jay moved all over the country pursuing school and sport. He finally settled in Conway, Massachusetts with his wife Meghan, 9-year-old daughter Leah and two excitable golden retrievers, Marley and Sierra.
Located off of a dirt road in the Conway hills, the Gump home is surrounded by fields and long rows of firewood drying in the sun. A handful of fruit trees flank a modest garden and a little wooden birdhouse sits crooked at the end of a wood pile, welcoming the many birds that sing in the trees.
The Gump property is special, but for more than just its gardens. In 2011, Northeast Solar installed a photovoltaic solar array on the south facing roof of the home. Today, the PV panels produce about 90 percent of the electricity that the family uses annually.
As a former coach and top level athlete, Jay has always been interested in measuring and quantifying the energy output of humans—now he monitors the power output of the solar panels that line his roof.
“I’m really aware of not just how much energy we use, but how that energy is produced. I’ve created spreadsheets so that I can monitor every kWh,” said Jay.
For years, Jay has tracked how much energy his home produces and how efficiently it is used by entering home energy data into spreadsheets that he's created. Why go through all this trouble? Jay is a scientist and like most scientists, he is always trying to understand things at a deeper level.
“I think one way to understand something is to try to quantify it,” he said.
Sitting at his kitchen table, he pulled up a series of charts and spreadsheets on his computer and began explaining what the numbers meant.
“This dip here represents cloud cover, it was probably raining that day,” he said, pointing to the computer monitor.
But something other than data collection motivates Jay. Most people don’t get excited over the BTU’s found in wood or how much energy is needed to produce maple syrup, another one of his hobbies.
“I try to understand energy production at home by measuring everything, that’s a scientific perspective, but I don’t think that’s the essence of why I do it, I don’t think it gets to the truth with a capital ‘T’,” he said, pausing for a moment to pat Marley and Sierra.
Jay continues after contemplating the question for a moment longer saying, “Life is all about the conversion of energy, it's part of the very definition of life.”
Standing on Jay's roof, I can see the gardens across the road, the family's small sugar shack and the solar array that is catching full afternoon sun. The panels are producing almost 90 percent of the families electricity needs but the athletic coach in Jay is quick to point to possible improvements.
“People figured out how to live energy efficient a long time ago, we just have to educate ourselves, that is the hard part,” he said. “A lot of planning and a little foresight can make all the difference.”
For the Gump’s, going solar was about more than saving money and lessening their environmental footprint, it was about living life intentionally.
Today, Jay spends most of his time developing himself as a teacher. He is entering his sixth year at Greenfiled Communtiy College where he teaches anatomy and physiology. While he doesn’t have the time he once had to track and monitor his homes energy production, he is still proud of his choice to go solar.
“My wife recently asked me if I would go solar again and the answer is yes, I would absolutely go PV again.”