Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Solar Arrays in River Hill

Occasionally someone will telll me that there is something important that I should be writting about, but am otherwise ignoring.  My normal response is "I agree that this is important.  Would you mind writing a guest post?"  CA Board Representative from River Hill Michael Cornell met my challenge and shared the following:

My wife, Bonnie, loves to save money. My daughter refers to the both of us as “hippies”. I guess the attention to going organic, becoming vegetarian (I’m the one holding us back), installing rain gardens virtually over half the yard, raising worms( in worm bins in the garage) for composting, growing what little food our small lot allows, and our energy savings devices – including a 16 panel solar array, is what seals the deal on the hippie label. These activities are also earth friendly and easy on the check book.

She was very quick this weekend, on Mother’s Day no less, to check our latest energy bill. I’m not making this up - the bottom line was a $29 credit. Although that’s not an average month by any stretch, it does illustrate the point that actions add up. Yes, we have solar panels. What energy we do buy comes from wind energy credits through Clean Currents. We also have a solar attic fan that helps to cool the house. The programmable thermostat also ensures we are not paying to heat/cool the house when no one is home. Plus, we participate in BGE/Exelon’s energy program which allows the utility to cycle off our air conditioning during peak hours to reduce demand on the grid. The actual electric portion of our bill was $12.10. (We have a 2000 sq ft house, 4 bedroom, 3 ½ bath.) 

The reason I share all this is that CA (Columbia Association) had a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 5thfor a 24 panel system solar array on ground mounted posts with GPS trackers that allow the panels to “follow the sun” as it moves through the sky- producing 40% more energy than stationary panels like we have. 

The panels are projected to produce 9.3 megawatts of power annually and offset 6.4 tons of carbon. Solar energy is a great way to reduce demand for fossil fueled energy production. And while I am a believer in climate change (or more appropriately name “climate chaos”) solar is a great way to save money.  The panels, including the tracking systems built here in Columbia by ATR, and including installation, cost about $34,000. They should pay for themselves in about 10 years – sooner if energy costs go up. All the energy they generate is free – as long as no one figures out how to put a meter on the sun. 

This is just one of many projects CA is bringing on line to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to reduce energy costs. If you follow such things, the projects are part of CA’s Greening of Columbia program – or “Here Comes the Sun” as CA President Phil Nelson likes to call it. 

Unlike many of the things CA does, this is project is readily visible. If you are driving east bound on 32 towards 70, right on the burn at exit 19 – Great Star Dirve – there they sit – watching the sun, making energy that feeds into the community center and the pool in River Hill.  CA works hard to reduce costs so we can put that money into our aging infrastructure and programming. Hopefully it serves as an example of what businesses and home owners can do to save money and be environmentally friendly at the same time. 

The good news is … you can do this without the worm bins!