Solar power becoming more popular

SIDNEY — Solar power systems are becoming more popular at residential and business properties in Shelby County.

Several reasons are driving the increased use of solar energy, according to Brian Steinkamp, director of strategy and development at Electro Green Energy Solutions (EGES), of Sidney.

“First, unlike lumber, costs for solar materials have dropped dramatically during the past few years. Second, productivity and efficiencies for solar materials have also improved as costs have dropped. For example, solar modules sold today generate 15 to 20% more energy compared to solar panels sold two years ago and are 20 to 25% cheaper,” he said.

EGES, a division of Electro Controls, is a solar renewable energy provider that works with clients to optimize a combination of renewable energy, energy efficient technology, and federal, state, and local incentive programs to significantly reduce the customer’s operating expense and energy consumption, and maximize the customer’s return on investment. EGES works within the commercial, industrial, agriculture, education, healthcare and municipality markets.

Steinkamp gave several examples of new solar energy systems recently installed in the local area.

Hopyard 29, a 7-acre hop farm east of Sidney near Pasco, which grows and processes premium hops used to make beer, had a roof-mounted solar power generation system installed on its property. The renewal energy system provides the electricity used to process and preserve hops that are sold to microbreweries and distilleries throughout the Midwest.

Owner Chris Meyer, said Hopyard 29 uses solar power in combination with Pioneer Electric’s power for their harvesting needs as a way to save money.

“We are out of the DP&L main system, so we are part of the Pioneer’s rural electrical co-op,” said Meyer. “So what happens is, 11 months out of the year, the solar panels are doing their job. They are back feeding into the electrical grid at Pioneer and earning us credits. So, for instance, for the month of July, even though we have a big commercial cooler going out there, set to 38 degrees with product in there, my electric bill for the month of July was still a negative $11.”

Steinkamp said Seitz Poultry also installed a roof-mounted solar array to provide electricity to offset the energy consumed by ventilation systems and related equipment in poultry barns. And Tim Geise, retired president of Dickman Electric Supply/Electro Controls, installed a ground-mounted solar array over the summer, which Steinkamp said offsets 95% of the energy used for his business and personal residence.

Geise said he is very pleased with the results so far since the July installation. He does not store power with batteries, so he switches back to electric power when the sun goes down.

“The solar panels and inverters I had installed, somewhere in July, are for personal use. It is working out well. We are seeing the benefits from it. I’ll say that the first three months — half of July, August and into September — I’m very, very pleased with what is happening,” Geise said about the power being produced for his 20-acre property. “You’ve got to analyze your utility bills and usage before you do it. And, you can size it to whether you want to generate half or you can generate the whole thing, if you want to.”

As costs for solar materials have declined and productivity has improved, Steinkamp said the “economics” for on-site power generation quickly become more attractive.

“In addition, incentives to encourage individuals and businesses to install solar systems are significant and are currently scheduled to decline during the next three years,” he said. “Currently, the federal government offers a 26% federal investment tax credit — not a deduction — to encourage taxpayers to install solar systems. For solar systems installed in 2020, owners receive a federal tax credit equal to 26% of the total eligible costs associated with both residential and commercial solar systems. The rate for the federal investment tax credit drops to 22% next year, and then drops further to 10% in 2022, and beyond for commercial solar systems. The federal tax credit rate for residential solar systems also drops to 22% next year, and is eliminated entirely in 2022 and beyond.”

“The combination of the federal investment tax credit, additional financial incentives applicable for businesses and commercial systems, the reduction in costs, and increased productivity have created an opportunity to add on-site solar power solutions cost effectively,” Steinkamp continued. “The combination of the avoided utility expense and incentives also creates a meaningful investment opportunity for businesses and homeowners. The return on investment created by the solar system and increased value in the real estate often creates meaningful rates of return for most owners.”

He said a great source for additional information on commercial federal investment tax credit incentives from the US Department of Energy can be found at:

ECGE, “often surprises commercial businesses when an on-site solar system creates internal rates of return in excess of 12% over the 25 year useful life of the system and takes less than five to six years for owners to recoup their original investment,” Steinkamp said. “Residential systems offer lower rates of return and include longer paybacks, approximately 10 years, primarily because residential systems do not share the same incentives and the tax benefit associated with depreciation that applies to assets used in a commercial business.”

Both the customers and contractors admitted there is an investment up front, but in the long run it pays for its self.

“Your payback is very very good, I think. As long as the sun keeps shinning, I should be very good,” Geise said, half joking. “It is an investment.”

Electrical contractors are able to obtain renewable energy products locally. Steinkamp said Dickman Electric Supply, EGES’s parent company, carries a full line of material needed to construct a solar system and will work with interested contractors to learn to install solar systems.

“Declining costs, increasing productivity and valuable incentives from the federal government will undoubtedly influence additional businesses and residential customers to add solar systems during the next few years. The new ‘normal’ includes on-site solar in addition to social distancing,” Steinkamp said.

For general information on renewable energy, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at .

EGES, located at 1991 St. Marys Ave., Sidney, can be reached at 317-654-8582 or by emailing Nick Koon, vice president of EGES, at power becoming more popular