Going solar

BRECKIN WELLS   The Marietta Times
Solar panels are located at Hidden Hills Orchard in Marietta.

BRECKIN WELLS The Marietta Times Solar panels are located at Hidden Hills Orchard in Marietta.

Solar power is arguably the cleanest, most reliable form of renewable energy available.

One of solar power’s many benefits is that it can save any business, organization or home countless future dollars by taking in an abundance of the sun’s direct rays as a main source of electricity.

There are many ways to be energy efficient, whether it be through solar panels or round houses…yes, a circle-shaped home.

Local businesses and residences have taken the initiative to go green and have reaped the benefits of converting to a more energy-efficient lifestyle.

More than 70 tons of

BRECKIN WELLS   The Marietta Times
Joe and Judy Baker’s round energy efficient home is located on 1205 Glendale Road in Marietta.

BRECKIN WELLS The Marietta Times Joe and Judy Baker’s round energy efficient home is located on 1205 Glendale Road in Marietta.

carbon dioxide saved through solar panels

Hidden Hills Orchard in Marietta is not only the home to delicious cider and a beautiful apple orchard, it’s also a home to 72 solar panels.

The panels were installed on the roof of the orchard’s packing house in 2011.

Owner Tom Burch said the panels were originally installed to reduce the significant costs of their large walk-in cooler.

“We had six years of electric usage records that went into the decision as well as the orientation of the building and the location away from the trees made it close to optimal,” he said.

Due to the season’s many days of high pressure sun, Burch said the solar panels are seeing record high production and generation for energy with an overall good performance.

“I think it’s done a little bit better lately because of the weather,” he said. “I expected more cloudy days but its probably performed a little better for Southeast Ohio than what’s expected.”

The orchard’s solar panels are covering an average of 90 to 95 percent of the electric use on the property.

There are two inverters and 36 panels to each invert.

A solar inverter converts the variable direct current output of a photovoltaic solar panel into a utility frequency alternating current that can be fed into a commercial electrical grid or used by a local, off-grid electrical network.

Burch said the solar panels require little to no maintenance.

“I don’t have to clean them or anything, they are completely maintenance free,” he said.

Burch said he keeps track of the solar panels’ energy intake daily.

“Sixty-eight percent of the solar panels have been paid off and I have 32 percent to go,” he said. “It’s still a good way return. I anticipated originally going into way longer payout.”

Though Burch’s solar panels have worked well for the orchard, he said he would not install panels for his own residence.

“I don’t think I would do it for the home,” he said. “The payout would be too much, I think it would be better improving the little things like lights and installation.”

“The end result turned

out much better than

expected.”

Dan Harrison, owner of Harrison Construction, is the proud owner of 45 solar panels on the roof of his offices in Marietta.

This year marks the ninth year since the solar panels have been installed on the building, and Harrison said could not be any more pleased with the results.

He first looked into installing the solar panels 29 years ago, but due to several factors he decided to wait on making the purchase.

“When I did the payback time 29 years ago, it was about 18 years,” he said. “Even though I had a concern about the environment, it was still too expensive and it seemed too long of a payback time.”

After waiting several years Harrison looked at the same system again and was pleased to find a significant decrease in cost.

“Nine years we looked into the same system, not only was the system a lot less in cost, the panels had improved and they had a payback time of seven to eight years, which improved by 60 percent,” he said.

Harrison said the end result turned out much better than predicted.

“We were able to pay back the initial cost in five and half years, and for three and a half years we have had free electric,” he said.

According to Harrison, the last time he paid a full electric bill it was $1,700 to $1,800 a month, and now it’s free.

“It’s a money maker, besides the fact that you are doing a great thing for the environment,” he said.

Harrison paid a total of $75,000 for the solar panels nine years ago and expects the cost to be much cheaper now.

“If I was doing it today I would be saving,” he said. “I’m reaping the benefit.”

How installation works

Chip Pickering, the owner of Pickering Energy Solutions, has installed many of the local area’s solar panels including those Harrison Construction, Marietta College and the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Marietta.

When thinking about installing solar panels, Pickering said a building analysis is the first thing to do as well as a budget overview.

“We will look at the roof and see if it’s suitable,” he said. “We look at the power bill because we want to match the amount of power it puts out and how much is used, then we put a budget together.”

The next few steps include a design process, ordering of the materials, obtaining permits and then a three-day installation period.

Pickering said he has seen a substantial growth within the last year in solar panel sales.

“We have done three to four systems per year since 2012,” he said. “In light of the global climate change, people are doing it more based on the climate reason rather than economic reason.”

For each solar panel installation, Pickering said he targets 60 to 80 percent of energy usage.

There are a lot of skeptics regarding the overall cost of solar panels and if there are really significant savings, but Pickering said it is well worth the money.

“A typical solar system will pay for itself,” he said. “An average Ohio residence will pay it off in eight to 10 years.”

According to Pickering the typical residential solar panel system would cost $25,000 to $35,000.

Pickering said solar panels will last up to 25 years.

Going green one

building at a time

Through a grant opportunity from Dominion East Ohio Gas, Marietta College has been able to install solar panels on two of the campus’s buildings.

This will be the third year since the solar panels have been installed on the Pioneer House and the McCoy Athletic Center.

Fred Smith, director of the college’s physical plant, said he worked with a team of people who submitted the grant to receive panels for the Pioneer House as well as the athletic center.

“The college community is very interested in renewable energy,” said Smith.  “We wanted something sustainable while also providing as a teaching for our students.”

Smith said the college offers several programs such as environmental science and environmental management where examining the solar panels serves as a great teaching aid.

The Pioneer House has 16 solar panels on its roof as well as a solar panel that serves as water heater.

The McCoy Athletic Center has 32 solar panels.

“Both installations have been very successful,” said Smith. “We see a great reduction in our energy bills.”

Smith said the college’s solar panels are expected to successfully return their initial investments within 10 years.

The energy-efficient round home

In addition to standing out from other homes in the area, the Bakers’ round residence is energy efficient.

Joe and Judy Baker of Marietta bought their round home from Deltec homes in 2012.

Deltec Homes is a company whose main goal is to create innovative, high performance and net-zero energy homes.

“It sounded fascinating to me and I knew once I saw one it was the house I had to build,” said Judy, 67. “It was the energy efficiency that attracted us.”

The shape of the house is one of the main factors in its energy efficiency.

A traditional square or rectangular structure results in differing pressure on various sides of the house, which causes drafting.

“The roundness of the home allows the wind to go around the structure leading to amazing insulation,” said Judy.

With a round structure, wind cannot build up any significant pressure on any particular side of the house.

“The aerodynamics of the home prevents the weather elements from being so harsh on the heating and cooling bills, the windows and the roofing,” said Judy.

The homes are expected to be 25 to 40 percent more energy efficient than a comparably built and sized square home.

“There has been a huge savings,” said Judy.

Top five reasons to be energy efficient:

– Energy efficiency saves you money.

– Energy efficiency improves the economy.

– Energy efficiency is good for the environment.

– Energy efficiency improves national security.

– Energy efficiency enhances the quality of life.

Source: Alliance to Save Energy website.