Whether the choice is wind, water or solar, or all of the above, the only thing people can seem to agree on is the need.
Even this week, President-elect Barack Obama is meeting with members of Congress to discuss his American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. An integral component of the plan, that he rolled out during his weekly radio address Saturday, is to double renewable energy production in the next two years.
But when it comes to the utilization of solar energy, Barnesville businessman George Andrews has been on the bandwagon since 1994.
The Solar Source of Georgia founder learned about solar power while living on the U.S. Pacific Island of Guam.
“Over there, some of the people on the off islands didn’t have any other source of power,” Andrews said.
So, he began building and designing solar panels.
Because of the current urgency of need to transition to renewable energy sources, the federal government is offering tax credits of up to 30 percent to homeowners who install solar panels and begin the generation of some of their own power.
But, the state of Georgia went one further with the implementation of House Bill 670 on July 1. Georgia residents can get a tax credit of 35 percent of the cost of purchasing and installing a clean energy system.
That amounts to 65 percent in federal and state tax credits, just for going solar.
Now, Andrews says, the industry is exploding.
“We’re starting to have a vertical growth in the industry,” he said.
Among Andrews’ customers is the Carlson family. The family’s 4,000-square-foot, upscale, Fayetteville home now consumes 50 percent less power from Georgia Power than it did just a few months ago because of the 45 Evergreen solar modules on the barn roof. This makes the family’s home the largest residential grid in the state.
“These will produce more power than the average home,” Andrews said, pointing to the grids on the roof of the Carlson barn. “The national average is 900 kilowatt hours per month. These panels average around 1,200 kilowatt hours a month year-round.”
The Carlsons also removed their traditional heating and air-conditioning units and went geothermal.
“Time will tell,” Lee Carlson said when asked if the family plans on going off grid - by eliminating all dependence on Georgia Power.
According to Lee Carlson, the next step will be to catch gray water and recycle it for rest rooms. One of the myths about solar power is that you can’t produce power when it is rainy or cloudy. That’s not the case, Andrews explained. Energy is produced because of the light, but not the heat.
On cloudy days, however, less power is produced.
We may pick up a couple kilowatts today,” Lee Carlson said Monday, “but we’ll sell it back to the power company. If we over-produce, if the sun gets very bright, you sell power back to the power companies.”
According to Andrews, Georgia Power will play electric membership corporations and they, in turn, give credit to solar users.
“It’s called net metering,” Andrews said. “They re-sell the green energy.”
Being as large as it is, the Carlsons’ system cost $100,000, others are not nearly as expensive or expansive. Panels create a solar porch on an Eady Creek Road home in Barnesville that produces 30 percent of the family’s current household electricity. The turnkey cost was $27,000. Then the family was able to deduct the state and federal tax credits.
“Most people get a loan and buy a car, but it depreciates,” Andrews said. “This appreciates in value because electric rates go up. These people become their own power companies.”