WM Solar Heat Trumps Winter Cold


Even when solar panels are snow-covered, they continue to capture energy
Even when solar panels are snow-covered, they continue to capture energy

deb_havensA cold grey day in Michigan may not seem like the best time to rely on solar heating systems, but Lou Haveman in Grandville would disagree. “We produce our own electricity,” says Lou, “and when we produce more than we need, it goes back on the grid.” More than he needs to power a house full of appliances, including his furnace? Yes, even in the coldest weather.

Lou still gets some of his electricity from Consumers Energy. But in December 2013 he installed a solar system in his home and spent all of 2014 watching his energy bills go down by nearly 60%. At 12 cents a kilowatt, that adds up to a savings of about $725.

It wasn’t all about saving money for Lou. He’s a strong supporter of what is sometimes called Creation Care – acting as a loving steward for Planet Earth http://www.creationcare.org/

Lou explains, “Simply to live in balance with nature, recognizing environmental issues need to be addressed. It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another thing to act on it.”

And it’s not easy to take action. “Consumers Energy actually has a lottery system. They allocate so many kilowatt hours for solar. You submit your application and by lottery if you’re selected, then you’re approved.” Lou says finding someone you trust who is skilled and experienced in solar installation is critical. “Initially, I’m pretty handy. I thought this is something I could do, but realistically that isn’t a viable option.”

Some rebates or tax incentives are available for homeowners who want to install alternative energy programs. But even though Lou got lucky in the lottery, eventually found Solar Winds to plan and install his system, and qualified for a 30% tax credit, he still had to spend about $20,000 to make it happen. Still Lou looks to the future. He expects to recover all the cost of the installation in about 10 years’ time, after which his electricity will be virtually free.

“But in addition to that,” says Lou, “it’s just incredibly rewarding to look at that meter and see it run backwards. I realize not everyone has the financial resources [to invest in alternative energy], but if we do I think it’s imperative that we do so.”

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