Homeowner captures power of the sun
Ben Kelley is still around, and so are his solar panels.
An Independence, Mo., resident, Kelley purchased solar-power panels and installed them in his home last April as a way to combat rising energy costs. The sun, after all, is a good source, providing enough electromagnetic energy in a 24-hour period to power the earth for 27 years.
The panels take sunlight and convert it to direct current – DC – at which time the energy is wired to a converter that changes the direct to alternate current, AC. From there it goes to his breaker box, which funnels electricity to other areas of the house.
There was a time last year where Power and Light Department officials thought that maybe, just maybe, more people would fix their homes for solar panels. After all, Kelley is selling a portion of his energy back to the utility.
“When I first put them in, I thought everyone would jump on board and do the same thing,” Kelley said. “It hasn’t turned out that way.”
While figures and numbers are unknown, Paul Mahlberg, Power and Light planning and rates manager, said most months the purchased electric is minimal.
“Last month he seemed to have given us more electricity than he used,” Mahlberg said.
The city pays Kelley about 3.5 cents for each kilowatt hour he puts back into the grid, Mahlberg said. That could be about $15 a month.
But Kelley, who lives in a small, non-descript home, is a rarity. Mahlberg said since last year, no one in the city has wired their home for paneling.
“For the majority, it’s making that upfront cost to install that keeps people from investing in them,” he said. “But we’ve received a lot of inquiries.”
With an investment of about $15,000, Kelley joins a small percentage of people in the United States using solar energy for their home. Rick Chapo, with SolarCompanies.com, said only 0.1 percent of the United States electricity and power come from solar panels and solar energy. That won’t put much of a dent in the amount of fossil fuels that are used each year in the country.
In countries such as Japan, solar energy usage is increasing far more steadily. That country saw a growth rate in solar energy usage of 63 percent in 2007.
But Kelley didn’t get into the whole solar energy thing to save the earth.
“No, I just wanted to stick it to the gas company,” he said. “But they’re still beating me. But it’s good to think that I’m saving the Earth’s resources.”
Savings translate to about $30 per month in the spring and summer, but winter months are a different story. He never breaks even then.
And it’s not simple implementing such technology. Kelley has had to deal with the city’s Codes Department to get the structure built, which sits on top of a carport in front of his house.
Connected to the city’s grid, precautions are necessary. For instance, if a power outage occurs, Kelley’s system is one of the first to be cut off from the rest of the grid so workers can avoid any electrical accidents.