SOLAR IN OUR COMMUNITIES
• There are two solar arrays at Carroll White REMC’s Delphi office. Through the arrays, members can learn about different types of arrays, the output produced by each one and the costs associated with the project. Graphs and information are available on our website at www.cwremc.coop.
• Currently, there are three approved solar commercial arrays in White County covering approximately 6,000-8,000 acres.
• There are no commercial solar farms located in Carroll County at this time.
When driving on Indiana country roads or even close to cities and towns, you will see solar arrays joining the landscape of stately windmills. Alternative green energy is thriving in our state and in the counties served by Carroll White REMC. Many of the projects you see are commercial solar farms, but private residential properties are also embracing solar energy.
At CW REMC’s Monticello office, local company Green Alternatives is currently installing a solar array. Leading the project is CW REMC Energy Advisor Joe Spear, a familiar and trusted information source for the REMC’s members.
The new solar project, located on the lawn of the co-op’s Monticello facility, is a research and development project that will use energy from the solar array to charge a battery located near
the REMC’s engineering department.
Though the REMC’s Delphi office already has a solar array, the Monticello project is different. “Unlike the solar arrays located at the Delphi location, the Monticello solar project is storing power into a battery,” Spear said. “This will help educate us on solar battery technology.
“The new solar array panel is producing 7kW, similar to the amount of energy used in a residential home,” explained Spear. “We will do ‘mock’ experiments, simulating home consumption, measuring use in the battery to operate a furnace, space heater, appliances, etc. Shaving off peak loads can also be measured.”
Data obtained could eventually be used to offer special rates that reflect savings. New solar technology, Spear said, can be managed by members from their smartphones.
“CW REMC’s board of directors supports endeavors so that staff can stay informed on new technology,” Spear said. “As energy advisor, I need to understand the research and development of projects, such as solar arrays. This hands-on experience allows me timely information so I can best advise CW REMC members with their questions about solar projects.”
The REMC has heard from members who are getting sales calls from solar companies. Those companies are promising huge savings on members’ energy bills. “I cannot stress this
enough to members … CW REMC wants to be your energy advisor,” Spear said. “In this scenario, we want to be your third-party advisor with any solar array residential project.”
“There is a copious amount of information out there about solar and the savings homeowners can incur by this new energy option,” confirmed Casey Crabb, CW REMC communications and public relations manager. “CW REMC is not in the business of telling members they should or should not invest in solar power. Our job is to be that trusted advisor so that members make the best, most economical decision possible for their lives. Installing a residential solar array will not eliminate a consumer’s electric bill. That is why communication with CW REMC is in the best interest of the members.”
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO WITH SOLAR
In a recent CW REMC News and Notes podcast entitled Residential Solar, Crabb sat down with Spear; Geoffrey Mart, CW REMC distribution systems engineer; and Kent Zimpfer,
CW REMC board member and professional contractor; to discuss residential solar projects.
Mart has had a lot of experience with solar. “Currently, we are averaging about 10 calls monthly from members who want to know about residential solar,” he said. “Our goal is to not
have members misled. Every vendor will give consumers numbers on the benefits of solar,” Mart said. But he advises members to “dig deeper.”
“A payback of two to three years on a solar investment is not possible,” Mart advised. “The payback on a residential solar array is approximately 15 to 20 years.”
“We recommend consulting with local vendors,” said Spear, noting that local companies tend to provide better service. Two recommended by the REMC are Green Alternatives in Flora and Ag Technologies Inc. in Rochester.
“Shop a vendor. Get references,” Spear continued. “Make certain the solar providers are licensed and understand the permit process.
“Ultimately, CW REMC will be working with the solar provider,” Spear said. “We will need to look at their design and make certain that it meets the safety requirements of CW REMC.
When the project is completed, we will measure CW REMC power and give credit for the solar power.”
As an experienced contractor, Zimpfer talked about potential problems when solar arrays are placed on roofs. Homeowners here in the Midwest need to consider the weight of snow
on a roof with solar panels. “A roof is not a lifetime asset,” Zimpfer said. “Consider the cost of replacing a roof and solar panels.”
We at CW REMC understand members’ desire to save money and know that residential solar providers’ promises to do just that can be tempting. But there are alternative ways to save without committing to a major investment (which could cost you as much as $60,000) like solar. Podcast panel members noted there is no Indiana incentive to install solar. Currently, the only incentive is a federal tax credit. (Be sure to discuss this with your accountant.)
“A geothermal system costs much less than a solar array and provides substantial cost savings,” Spear said. “And $200 of caulking in a home will do a world of good!” As an energy
advisor, Spear is available to visit members’ homes to do energy audits and offer advice on saving energy.
Not only is CW REMC doing its part in embracing alternative energy, so is its power provider, Wabash Valley Power Alliance. “They are one of the most ‘green’ energy companies
in the country,” noted Zimpfer. Wabash Valley invests in landfill gas generation, such as at Liberty Landfill, with three projects. In 2017, Wabash Valley added solar to its portfolio.
For more information about residential solar array projects listen to the podcast mentioned this article which is available on our website, www.cwremc.coop, or contact Joe Spear at
Carroll White REMC at 800-844-7161.