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'It was a moral decision'

Becky Vargo • Feb 4, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series looking at solar power in the Tri-Cities. 

Spring Lake resident Leslie Newman is excited about the results she’s seeing with her new solar panel installation, even though it’s been snowing or cloudy most of the time it’s been in operation.

“I was surprised at how much power was made in November and December (2017),” said the Ann Street resident. “Even with the long winter and not as many sunny days, you can still make power.”

Newman said on the days the panels are not covered with snow, there is power generated every day.

Six 3.5-by-5.5-foot panels cover part of the garage roof facing the south. There are no big trees in the way, so when there’s sun, the panels are creating energy.

She’s always had a heart for the environment, but it wasn’t until a friend did a residential installation, that Newman realized it could be an option for her.

“It’s not cheap, but it was something I can afford,” said Newman. “It was a moral decision, the right thing to do.”

The $7,000 cost included the six solar panels, the power inverters, electrical work, labor and permits.

Installer Kris Hunter, of West Olive, managing partner for Global Battery Solutions, said the panels are just a small portion of the cost.

The panels operate separately from each other, so someone could do a single panel installation if they wanted, Hunter said.

And federal tax credits remain in place for 2018. Hunter said she is seeing an increase in business right now because the tax credit is scheduled to expire in 2019.

That credit is 30 percent, which amounts to about $2,100 for Newman.

The Spring Lake woman is paying about $52 per month for her electricity. Her solar savings will be a variable fraction of that, she said.

Hunter said that Newman should experience a payoff in just over eight years.

The solar panels have a 25-year warranty and should last much longer, Hunter said.

The technology – an electric wafer system – is much more improved over the huge solar panels from the 1970s, which were solar hot air and designed to be passive heat, she said.

How they work

Each panel has an inverter that converts the power from DC to AC, Hunter said. That power goes into the house, into the main box and then to the meter where the information can be read by Consumers Energy. 

The information is also fed into the Internet so that Newman can see the electricity being produced by each panel.

Any additional energy not used in the house is fed back into the grid and used by nearby homes.

Newman said that Consumers regulates the panels so that you don’t make money from generating energy.

Who can help

There’s more options now for financing an energy project.

Organizations like Michigan Saves (https://michigansaves.org/) and Green Home Institute (https://greenhomeinstitute.org/) have information on financing, how to go about becoming energy efficient and possible builders/installers.

The Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter also has a Sierra Club Partnership that vets solar installers around the state. You can get more information here: https://www.sierraclub.org/michigan/sierra-club-solar-partnership.

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