WOOSTER, Ohio — Now is the time to invest in solar, wind and other types of renewable energy.
Fred Michel, a professor with Ohio State University’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, told a crowd at the university’s second annual renewable energy workshop, that state and federal funding is available, but should be used soon, before it goes away.
Another reason to invest now, he said, is the approach of 2025, when the state’s renewable energy standard will require at least 25 percent of its energy be produced from alternative and renewable sources.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed the energy standard into law in 2008, making Ohio’s push toward renewables one of the most aggressive in the nation.
“Now is the time to do these things because incentives will likely end once that pot of money is used, and once renewable energy standards are met. And, energy rates are likely to rise,” Michel said.
Michel, a Wooster, Ohio resident, has equipped his own home with solar panels and solar technology to create a 4.1 kilowatt system.
His installation cost $31,000. He received a state grant of $3 per watt of electric, which totaled nearly $11,550. A federal tax credit reimbursed one-third of his cost, good for $6,500, leaving a net investment cost of just under $13,000.
He calculates his 10-year returns at an electric bill savings of 10 cents per kilowatt hour, and he also collects more than $13,700 in solar renewable energy credits.
He estimates the solar system has increased his home value by more than $9,100 over 10 years, which combined with the other returns, totals nearly $20,000.
Michel explained grants like the Ohio Department of Development’s Residential Solar Photovoltaic program, which pays $3 per watt to the installer of a solar system.
Another program — the Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit — allows a federal taxpayer to claim a tax credit of 30 percent of the nonreimbursed cost of a solar system.
Michel showed multiple houses in Ohio that have invested in solar systems like his own, yielding more in returns than investments. Several barns — bank barns and horse barns — also were featured, where owners had installed solar panels to the roofs.
The energy workshop was co-sponsored by OSU and Wayne County Sustainable Energy Network. Barry Romich, of the energy network, gave a recap of solar power in Wayne County and its potential for other counties and states.
Romich was part of a team that helped make a mobile, solar-powered power station for the county’s organization of Habitat of for Humanity. The unit has 720 watts of solar panels and has helped replace the need for generators when new homes are being built.
He showed examples of how even construction equipment, like scissors lifts, can be fitted for solar power when electrical outlets are not available.
Currently, the energy network is working to install solar panels on one of the administrative buildings at the Wayne County Fair — the Pete Armstrong building.
Per capita, Romich said Ohio is led in solar installation by the Amish, many of whom do not have conventional electric in their homes or businesses, and have adopted other means of energy.
Representing Ohio’s wind power was Bernie Caldwell of Caldwell Energy Options. Over the past several years, he has installed wind turbines and solar systems on Ohio farms — especially dairy farms. His turbines are of a residential size, and whatever energy is not used by the turbine’s owner is returned to the power grid, to the owner’s credit.
The turbines are mounted onto a concrete foundation and take up little space.
They require little to no maintenance and are heavily subsidized through grants. Ohio residential grants can cover up to 50 percent of installation, or up to 40 percent for commercial installations. A tax credit also is available, Caldwell said, which provides a 30 percent tax credit.
A typical example of what it costs to install a residential turbine — not including a state grant — looks like this: $15,000 for installation, minus the federal incentive of $4,500 (30 percent), for a total cost of $11,500.
With utility rates rising, some of his customers expect their savings will outweigh the investment in less than 10 years.
More information about small-scale turbines is available at www.windturbinesofohio.com, or Caldwell Energy Systems, Bernie Caldwell, 330-465-1426.
Presentations from the renewable energy workshop are available online: www.oardc.ohiostate.edu/bioenergy/pageview.asp?id=1461