Co-op touts solar panels

Electric cooperatives across Ohio are turning to solar projects to help members access the energy source at minimal cost.

Residents in rural areas of Washington, Noble, Monroe, Morgan, Athens and Guernsey counties have a new addition to their electric power supply thanks to a new installation at Washington Electric Cooperative in Marietta.

As part of the co-op’s partnership with Buckeye Power, the new OurSolar program is rolling out solar panels at co-ops across the state at minimal cost to their members. The Marietta-based operation is the third to install the renewable energy conduit in the state.

“We have a lot of folks very interested in renewable energy sources, but the cost of installing them into your own home can be prohibitive,” said Jennifer Greene, director of marketing and member services.

Instead, for 53 cents per year, the co-op’s members receive the benefits of a 160-panel installation tied directly to their power grid from the co-op’s grounds.

“What’s cool about this is we peak in demand in the middle of summer and that’s when you have the most sun to utilize,” explained Nathan Whitacre, director of operations and engineering. “So they’ll work the best when we really need them.”

The panels alone can power on average 10 four-person homes per month, Whitacre said.

“Our average home customer uses about 1,000 kilowatts per month and with solar the environmental impact is so much less than our main source of coal.” he added.

In Ohio, coal is the main source of electricity generation with production of close to 7,000 megawatt hours last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The second largest source is natural gas at close to 2,500 megawatt hours. Then nuclear generates just more than 1,000 megawatt hours in the state.

“When Buckeye Power started the solar program we wanted to be a part of that renewables future and we’re trying to look at the economics of these renewable options with less of a footprint on the environment,” said Jack Bragg, CEO and general manager. “The program gives the distribution members a low-risk opportunity to participate in that future.”

The main sources of power the co-op draws from include coal-fired power plants, natural gas turbines and hydropower plants throughout the state.

By the numbers

In the past seven days Washington Electric Cooperative has generated through its new solar panels:

¯ 281.53 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

This could power:

¯ 21,677.59 lights for a year.

¯ Or 1,407.64 hours powering a 200 watt 42 inch LCD television.

OurSolar array at Washington Electric Cooperative:

¯ The cost to members for the 50 kilowatt array is 53 cents per year.

¯ The installation takes up 150 feet by 50 feet of ground on the co-op’s property with 160 panels.

¯For more information visit: oursolar.coop/washington/

Source: Nathan Whitacre and Jennifer Greene of Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc.