Solar power is growing from a curiosity to commonplace, as Jason Adelman can testify.
The roof of his restaurant, The Feve, was fitted July 20 with a $45,000 solar panel array — along with a $4,000 LED lighting project, it’s part of an effort to be more sustainable.
The LEDs lowered the restaurant’s electricity bill by $200 a month. And in the course of three days, The Feve produced 300 kilowatt hours of electricity, which cut his bill by a third.
“We want to show that you can be socially conscious and business savvy at the same time,” Adelman said. “We don’t have to be done. We’ll keep installing. We’ll keep saving. We’ll keep progressing.”
Many business and homeowners are assessing the pros and cons of rooftop solar arrays to capture free energy from the sun, and they’re finding it’s a good investment.
Active solar power uses photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight directly into electricity, and it’s traditionally been a prohibitively expensive technology.
However, the cost of installation has dropped by more than 70 percent since 2010, leading the industry to expand into new markets, according to the Solar Energy Industries Associations.
The benefits of residential solar power are obvious to Carl McDaniel, chair of the Oberlin People’s Energy Cooperative. Energy from the sun is endless, at least for the next five billion years (give or take). It provides clean energy with no greenhouse gas emissions and can save people money on their electric bills.
For McDaniel, running on solar energy is not a matter of money, but ethics.
“Do you want to have a Jacuzzi, marble counter tops, hardwood floors? All those decisions are your ethical decisions. There’s no payback on a hot tub,” he said.
When construction on his 2,000-square-foot Oberlin home began in April 2008, McDaniel’s objective was to build a climate-neutral home.
This goal wasn’t achieved by installing a bunch of gadgets and gizmos or by spending winters shivering in darkness. Actually, the $365,000 home’s energy efficiency is due to it’s design, which takes maximum advantage of heat and light from the sun.
The home’s south-facing windows let in so much light that it generates more solar energy than it uses, even in the winter.
McDaniel expects to recover the cost of installation a little after 2023. Most of the cost will be recovered through electric bill savings.
The average home in Oberlin uses 9,000 kilowatt hours per year, McDaniel said. He uses 10 percent of that energy to run his house and charge his Prius, and that still leaves him with four kilowatt hours of leftover energy storage that could run the house for two days if the power were to go out.
All energy that isn’t used is immediately sent back to Oberlin Municipal Light and Power Systems.
Powering your home using solar energy doesn’t require much maintenance. All a homeowner needs to do is keep the panels clean by hosing them down once a year, said McDaniel.
Aside from that, the inverter — the brains of the system — may need to be replaced once a decade.
Where your home is situated has a big effect on your solar power efficiency. Towering trees, tall buildings, and other obstructions are going to be a problem.
McDaniel said it’s necessary to make sure there are no shadows on the roof’s panel area during sunny hours.
It’s not much work, he said, and the trend is only growing. Thirty-two homeowners in Oberlin have made the switch to sunshine.
“It’s a sense of independence. I’m making my own energy! People said we couldn’t do it in Ohio, but I”m making a contribution,” he said. “At least my grandchildren will know that I did my best to help climate change.”
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.
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