Renewable energy source offers environmental and economic benefits


Bear Creek Organic Farm owner Brian Bates has had many conversations over the past four years when visitors stop by his farm on Atkins Road.

“It’s always one of the things we talk about the most when we talk to people about agriculture and is it environmentally friendly and so on. Bates said of his farm’s 30-panel solar system atop one of his buildings. “We thought having this as a topic of conversation and an ambassador for solar energy would be a very good opportunity.”

In the spring of 2017, Bates said the 30-panel array had been installed on his farm, which at the time could generate enough electricity to power 50% of his farming operations.

The reasoning behind adopting solar power, Bates said, was threefold.

“No. 1, we believe in renewable energy and we love to try and put money where our mouth is,” Bates said. “No. 2, was the maximum federal tax credit for renewable energy incentives going to start declining after this year, and there was a big advantage where Great Lakes Energy had a big incentive program and the Federal government had a pretty big credit program, so these two financial aspects are starting to line up.

The third and final reason, Bates noted, was the most relevant to him.

“We thought this would be a great talking point and a great way to make solar power a little more accessible and to talk about it,” Bates said. “People want to know how it works… do the calculations work, does it really pay off? “

The cost of installing a solar panel for a company varies depending on size and needs, but is worth the investment, said Devon O’Shea, engineering and design representative for CBS Solar, a company that has worked with Manthei Landscape Supply, a division of MDC Contracting, installing signs in Charlevoix in 2017.

According to EnergySage, the average cost of installing solar panels in Michigan ranges from $ 13,388 to $ 18,112. Based on the cost per watt, the price of a solar panel installation in Michigan ranges from $ 2.68 to $ 3.62.

Larger arrays, such as a 10 kilowatt array, can cost up to $ 30,000.

“We see every project as a new and unique opportunity,” said O’Shea. “Although the overall size and cost will vary by job, we strive to provide a return on investment of 7.5 to 10 years or better. It is a safe and reliable investment and we expect a rate of return greater than 10%.

“There are tax credits of up to 30% so people can keep more of what they earn. “

O’Shea said solar panels are a great depreciation benefit for businesses as well, and since businesses are spending a lot of money on marketing, a new, state-of-the-art solar panel is getting a lot of attention and being a big deal. a great medium for business. to show that they are investing in a responsible future.

Peter Manthei of Manthei Landscape Supply said the solar panel his company installed is around 75 kilowatts.

“The goal was that the more energy they consume, the faster it pays off, because everything we sell back to the grid is at a pretty low rate,” Manthei said. “It produces well. We had a few minor issues with the report and internet connections, but other than that it works fine and the system is holding up.

Manthei said he became interested in solar power after reviewing the company’s operations in California.

“I wanted to see how it would work in Michigan,” Manthei said. “Obviously a lot less time in the sun, but was it doable? For us it’s always nice to try something different and renewable and we’ve seen them pay off in California. We figured that with enough sun and the right discounts, we could get it paid off in Michigan.

“It was the trick, it was an investment, but we’re still looking for ways to use recyclable things.”

Bates said a slightly longer recovery period didn’t scare him as much as, say, someone who recently retired.

“I’m a little younger, I don’t plan to move either, so putting them up in a building I live in isn’t that big of a concern,” Bates said. “Reimbursement depends on your income bracket, your utility discounts, who your electricity supplier is, and what type of metering arrangement you can put in place.”

Bates said that before considering purchasing a grid, an individual or business should research an operator with a favorable net metering agreement and see how different providers handle renewables such as solar power. .

“When you think about sizing your grid, net metering only really matters when you have times of the day or year when you expect your grid to generate more electricity than you do. can’t use it then, ”Bates said. “As long as the electricity produced is less than your total consumption at any one time, it will cancel out those kilowatts.”

Bates said there are a number of reasons a company would consider investing in a large-scale solar generator, including visibility, customer appreciation, marketing, and maximizing return opportunities.

“Maybe you are at a company where your investment horizons are longer, maybe you are not a startup,” Bates said. “Maybe you’ve maximized your opportunities for returns within your business and looked for costs to eventually eliminate, so energy could be one of them.

“For a business, it’s a way to reduce operating costs by investing in capital investments,” Bates said. “So there may be good financial reasons to do this when spending money that you won’t be taxed on to save money in the future. “

He added that several utility companies such as Consumers Energy or Great Lakes Energy are now offering “super, super big renewable energy commitments over the five, 10, 15 year horizon, absolutely amazing tectonic changes, changing the industry in the way they are sources of electrons in the future. “

Earlier this month, leaders in the city of Petoskey said they were ahead of schedule as to where they needed to be to switch to fully renewable resources, including solar power, by 2035.

“I am pleased to report that the city uses approximately 22.7% renewable energy in our portfolio, exceeding our target of 20% renewable energy by 2020,” City Manager Rob Straebel said during a recent city council meeting.

The city plans to complete the installation of solar panels on the roof of City Hall this week, Straebel said, and the system is expected to be operational within the next two weeks.

“Certainly our mayor and our city council are fully committed to renewable energies and the promotion of renewable energies, to the point where we get to 100% renewable energy sources and we expect that to be by around 2035″, Straebel said.

Straebel added that city officials believe there is a community education component associated with renewable energy, and to that end, the city is considering installing grids on other city buildings in the city. part of a demonstration project.

“This not only shows that solar panels are environmentally friendly, but that they reduce the city’s carbon footprint,” Straebel said. “The cost of solar panels is drastically reduced and much more cost effective, so there are big savings to that.

“We believe that we can produce between 60 and 80% of the town hall’s electricity needs thanks to solar panels, depending on the day.

Straebel added that the estimated return on investment for the panels is 12 to 15 years.

“After that, we’ll save money for the city,” Straebel said. “We believe that not only is this great from an environmental standpoint, but that the economy is there and, in the end, we will save taxpayers’ money. “


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