June 19, 2010


Freeville man tells alternative energy panel of solar savings

Cornell professor says he’s cut energy bill by $6,000 since installing panels on roof in 2003

Staff Reporter

Freeville resident Bob Herdt told members of the Cortland County Alternative Energy Subcommittee on Thursday that he has used solar panels to generate half the power at his house over the past seven years.
Committee members invited Herdt to talk about his experiences with solar panels, given the committee’s focus on alternative energy sources.
Legislator Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville), the Agriculture/Planning/Environment Subcommittee chair, formed the alternative energy subcommittee in January 2009 to explore ways residents could save money through alternative energy sources.
The subcommittee is composed of County Planning Director Dan Dineen, representatives from SUNY Cortland and the county Business Development Corp., concerned residents and legislators.
Herdt, an adjunct professor at Cornell University, decided in 2003 to save energy costs at home by installing a solar panel system on his roof.
“I believe in using as little energy as possible,” Herdt said, adding solar panels have saved him more than $6,000 over the past seven years.
Herdt did not say how much the system cost him but said he has recovered about 23 percent of the cost since they were installed.
In addition, Herdt says, the panels reduce pollution and decrease the country’s reliance on imported energy sources such as oil.
The panels generate an average of 16 kilowatt hours over a day, a savings of about $3.20 daily in 2010, given the average 20-cent price of one kilowatt hour of energy.
One kilowatt hour equals 10 100-watt lightbulbs burning for an hour, said Herdt.
Cortland resident Charles Garber, who makes his own ethanol as a fuel source at home, sits on the subcommittee and said after the meeting he enjoyed Herdt’s presentation although the system would not be cost-effective for him.
Herdt said the cost for a typical 4.5-kilowatt system would be approximately $35,000. Herdt’s system is 9.6 kilowatts.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority offers rebates if the system is connected to the electric grid, said Herdt, so a $35,000 panel system might actually end up costing $25,000.
Herdt, whose panels are connected to the grid, received a rebate.
The payoff comes over time, when energy bill savings offset the cost of implementing the system.
Herdt said that on bright sunny days, the excess energy goes back into the grid, which he is paid for at a rate equal to what he is charged for using the electricity.
“NYSEG pays me the same as I pay them for electricity coming to me. If I buy $100 (worth of electricity) and send them $50 they bill me for $50,” Herdt said.
This even return is why Herdt chose solar over another alternative energy source such as wind power, he said. NYSEG does not pay the same amount if the energy is generated by wind, he said.
Herdt said his house, with its wood-burning stove and south facing windows, is already energy efficient so it makes the most of the solar power. If the power goes out, the house will still have power for a few days for its refrigerator with a battery backup.
Over six years, Herdt estimates his system has generated 36,000 kilowatt hours, saving approximately $6,120 in that time.
“I am very happy with it,” Herdt said, saying the panels require no maintenance and he only needed to make one service call in the time he has had the system.
Garber said for him, continuing to use ethanol in lieu of heating oil is a more cost-effective alternative energy source than an investment in solar panels.
But, Garber said, he promotes all alternative energy sources.
“I think any means of saving us from using oil is a worthwhile project no matter how little you save you are still saving something and if enough people do it, we will rely on oil less and less,” Gerber said.


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