Is 2017 the year to install solar energy panels? According to a recent Fortune Magazine article, solar power is becoming cheaper, and will beat the price of coal and natural gas in many regions by 2040.
Residents of the Driftless Area around Dodgeville can learn the latest about solar installation, its costs and benefits at Solar Energy Fair Wednesday, January 11. The two-hour presentation will be offered twice, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., covering some nuts and bolts information on where our electrical energy currently comes from, how Photovoltaic (PV) systems work, potential costs and savings from a residential PV system along with some real-world examples from our area.
“We hope people will be able to take away a good understanding of how these systems work and the financial facts,” says Paul Ohlrogge, community resource development educator at the Iowa County UW-Extension office, one of the event sponsors.
“It’s not going to be a long lecture,” he continues. “There will be time for discussion and a chance to visit with people who do installation to learn about it.”
Dr. Mesut Muslu, professor of electrical engineering and coordinator of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Systems at UW-Platteville, along with his student Casey Robb, will provide an overview of the sources and economics of electrical energy production in the U.S. His research includes the costs and payback of a roof-top PC system.
Dr. Muslu says this event is part of his program’s efforts “to share what we are learning with the public.”
The Fortune article attributed the falling costs of solar power — from the mid 1990s to the present — to technology and manufacturing improvements assisted by government support. However, they predict that future cost cuts will like come from sources like financing and “group buy” solar projects.
The advantages of buying solar systems in larger groups will be covered by Peter Murphy, solar program manager of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA). MREA has been working with group buy programs since 2013. They help residents to lower their solar installation costs when groups of home owners and commercial building owners all purchase equipment and installation services at the same time.
“That way, we are able to achieve cost efficiencies,” says Murphy. “I’m going to talk about how those programs work, what goes into them and what you can expect.”
Murphy says successful programs are now up and running in Milwaukee, Shorewood, Eau Claire, Champaign, IL, and Bloomington, IL. “It will be a great opportunity to get some free information about an increasingly relevant technology,” he adds.
Chuck Tennessen, representing Sustain Iowa County and the Iowa County Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby, who are also sponsoring this event, will share his recent experience in adding PV panels on his property. A number of area solar installers will also be available to answer specific questions from those attending the Solar Energy Fair.
The fair will take place at the Health and Human Services Building, 303 W. Chapel St. Wednesday, January 11 from 2-4 p.m. and from 6-8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. No registration is required. Hope to see you there.