By Emily Klein, Reporter
Grow Solar Metro East is hosting free educational solar power seminars through September.
These discussions will give residents in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe Counties an opportunity to learn more about the benefits of installing solar panels on their houses, the financial implications and will also offer residents a free no-obligation site assessment.
Grow Solar Metro East is administered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) for free to the counties. This type of program has been successful in other parts of Illinois as well as Iowa and Wisconsin. Madison County, St. Clair and Monroe Counties are a part of Grow Solar Metro East, and is comprised of volunteers who are passionate about solar power.
The organization picked a solar panel installation company for residents who decide to have solar panels. Installing solar panels for a house can greatly cut utility costs and helps Illinois initiative to cut down on non-renewable energy sources. Solar panels can power up to 95 percent of a houses energy, but it can vary resident to resident and some get confused with how many solar panels they should install.
“We have people ask us, ‘Well my house is this big, how much solar power do I need?’ It’s more complicated than that,” said Grow Solar Metro East volunteer Kevin McKee. “It’s like asking how much does a car cost. Well, how much car do you need, what are you going to do with it?”
The initial cost of installing solar panels may be a shock to some, which can sometimes be a $20,000 install, but incentives from the state and federal governments plus tax incentives can reduce costs up to 60 percent. Additionally, with the greatly reduced utility bills the solar panels will pay for themselves quickly. One aspect that could reduce the number of solar panels needed — and therefore reducing installation costs — is making energy efficient changes to one’s home. McKee recommended adding more insulation or upgrading appliances to be more energy efficient.
“We do recommend before people make the instillation to upgrade the efficiency of their home.
They can add more instillation, or replace appliances. Get appliances that you can reduce the number of solar panels you might need,” said volunteer Chris Krusa.
Ameren will give solar powered houses a credit if they overproduce energy that isn’t used. Energy that’s produced in the daytime when the sun is out sometimes isn’t all used up in the evening. Essentially, the meter goes backwards and a credit is seen on the next bill. The energy company will do a one-for-one deal, which means a one dollar for a dollar of energy saved.
Aside from reducing utility cost, having solar panels also reduces non-renewable energy consumption. In Illinois, 8–9 percent of energy comes from solar and wind sources. Around 50 percent of Illinois energy comes from either coal or nuclear. By 2025, Illinois wants to have 25 percent of energy come from solar and wind sources. Illinois has passed legislature to help move along the solar panel trend.
Future Energy Jobs Act came into effect a year ago in June and provides incentives to investors who are interested in the large fields of solar panels. There recently was a Bill in State legislation that was unanimously adopted that will require builders take into consideration construction needs to make buildings solar or adaptable to have solar panels. McKee said that one of the main goals of Grow Solar Metro East is to help residents become aware of the benefits of having solar panels, all the while helping Illinois complete its goal of reducing non-renewable energy sources.
“We’d like to strive for eliminating or reducing substantially over time the coal and gas use, because it pollutes the atmosphere and puts out particulates that make people sick. It also destroys the land when we mine it. So there’s no such thing of clean coal. It’s dirty from beginning to end,” McKee said.
Grow Solar Metro East will host discussions about solar panels and energy until September this year. The events are free educational events and are open to anyone. To find out event times and more information visit www.growsolar.org/grow-solar-metro-east.