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Martinsville REMC office installs solar panels
By Aleasha Sandley
January 3, 2011

South Central Indiana REMC recently installed two solar panels near its Martinsville headquarters. The panels provide power to the utility’s electronic sign that sits nearby. The system was installed by Solar Systems of Indiana, Inc.

MARTINSVILLE — South Central Indiana REMC officials want to be a source of information for the electric utility’s customers who are interested in going solar.

About three weeks ago, SCI installed two photovoltaic solar panels at its Martinsville headquarters. The panels are connected to SCI’s power grid and offset the power use of its electronic sign. Any extra energy is fed back to the grid.

Creating its own solar power is not the main point of the panels, visible to motorists along Morton Avenue, SCI President and CEO Kevin Sump said. Instead, the utility hopes to show its customers how solar energy works and how much energy can be gained from the sun.

“The main reason we’re doing it is a lot of our members are interested in renewable energy sources,” Sump said. “We wanted to have something that they can see and something that would provide us with output data that we could provide to our members so not only could they see a system but they can get a better idea of what it is like, what they can expect.

“We certainly support renewable energy if it makes sense for our members.”

Sump said SCI has no stake in selling solar panels or promoting the use of that type of energy. The panels, which cost $39,260, were purchased mostly through funding from SCI parent Hoosier Energy, which pitched in $25,000. The utility also received a $10,300 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and paid the remaining cost on its own.

Recovering the costs of the panels is expected to take more than 23 years, according to an SCI press release.

“A system like this is pretty expensive,” Sump said. “An average homeowner may not be able to afford or justify it. We just wanted to install the system, have it there, and at some point our system will be auto-loading the output data onto our website. Those are the kinds of things that our members need to see.”

The two panels generate 4,500 watts of power, which is equivalent to running one water heater or about two hair dryers, according to the release. SCI’s electronic sign uses about 1,200 watts of power.

Photovoltaic technology has advanced in recent years.

“There is a lot of interest in renewable energy,” SCI Vice President of Engineering Jack Hubbard said. According to SCI, 88 percent of all electric cooperatives offer electricity generated from renewable sources. In 2008, 11 percent of electric cooperative power sales came from renewable energy, including wind, solar, hydro, refuse-derived fuel, geothermal, waste heat recovery and biomass.

Customers producing energy

SCI already has six members using solar panels to supplement their energy supply. Among the six, 13 kilowatts of grid-connected photovoltaic generation occurs, with the largest installed system creating 4.4. kilowatts and the smallest generating 0.57 kilowatts. On average, SCI buys back 3.2 kilowatt-hours from each installed kilowatt of photovoltaic generation per month.

“Of course, the units produce more electricity than we buy back,” Hubbard said. “Most of the (photovoltaic) generated electricity is consumed by the residence, reducing the amount of energy needed from SCI REMC.”

Sump said the amount of money earned by members selling back their energy to SCI was minimal.

“We’re talking a few dollars each month,” he said. “You couldn’t justify putting one in based on what you’re selling back.”

“Everyone hopes that the price of the equipment comes down,” he said. “The payback on that is many, many years out. The anticipation is that the cost of all these renewable resources will come down in the future and that’s certainly the hope.”

Members interested in connecting a solar system to the grid can contact Hubbard at SCI at 765-342-3344. The members must sign contracts and SCI must install a commercial-grade meter to register the energy produced.

Copyright: 2011

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Chile Woman

February 8, 2013 Press Release:

"Chile Woman turns disater into power"

Copyright 2013 By Dawn Hewitt-Herald Times

Peppers need sunshine to grow, obviously. But Susan Welsand, aka the Chile Woman, is using sunshine to power her greenhouse.
On the coldest day of 2013, she watched with glee as the dial on her electric meter turned backward, thanks to her new installation of two new solar panels.
The system was designed and installed by Bloomington Solar design and Build firm, Solar Systems of Indiana.
February is when she starts germination of tens of thousands of pepper seeds. She will sell these plants at the Bloomington Framers market and on the internet.
For 20 years, keeping her greenhouse just the right temperature for tender, young warm-loving peppers resulted in a hefty electric bill.

But not anymore - thanks partly to a tornado.

Welsand's property southwest of Bloomington took a direct hit on May 25th, 2011. Miraculously, neither her house or her greenhouses were severely damaged, but dozens of trees came down all around them. It was a mess and tookk months to clean up. The storm's silver lining was that Welsand's hilltop property suddenly had a big open solar window. " I completely installed the solar array because of the tornado" "With the the disater came wonderful things"
It took her a year and a half to figure out exactly what configuration she needed and what she could afford. During that time, the cost of photovoltaic panels continued to fall.

She'll get a 30% federal tax credit on her income taxes and she will be able to depreciate the investment  in solar property as part of her business.

As she begins planting her 2013 crop, her 5.2 KW solar array, mounted on two free standing posts on a concrete slab, are converting sunshine into electricity.

The installation is engineered with withstand 90 mph winds. Although she expects a 15-year payback, she's certain her investment is wise. "It makes financial sense for my business" she said. "This is a decision I know I won't regret."  Reducing her carbon footprint was also a big motivation, "It's something I always wanted to do,"
In her personal life, Welsand has cut her electricity and natural gas use down considerably. She heats her home mostly with woods, thanks in part again to the tornado and she doesn't use an air conditioner in the summer. "I've taken deliberate steps to get my personal energy use down, but couldn't with my business." she said. " I didn't want to feel guilty about all the electricity my greenhouse uses"
In its first several days of operation, the solar farm was operating at full nameplate capacity thanks to the cool weather. "If a business as small as mine can afford it, any business can," Welsand said.