Dan Hofmann's back to school essay: 'How we covered the region with solar power during our summer vacation'
In honor of the time of year and the obligatory back-to-school essay “what I did over summer break,” I thought it would be fun to write about the solar industry in Kentucky and what RegenEn Solar has been up to the past few months.
We’ve been incredibly busy and have a lot to share!
The solar industry in Louisville and throughout Kentucky is really picking up steam this year.
Not only have we doubled the number of solar installations from this time last year, but the number of inquiries and quotes we’ve written is off the charts in 2012.
The types of questions I’m getting has changed from “does solar really work in Kentucky?” and “I thought there were too many clouds here?” to, “I’ve been looking at solar energy for my home the past few months and would like an estimate” and “we want solar panels on the next house we buy, what does it cost?”
Additionally, I was contacted by LG&E earlier this year, and their executives said they’ve noticed the number of their residential customers going solar with net-metering has grown exponentially this year.
They said they wanted to interview me for an “internal article” for their executives to get a better idea how these solar panel systems worked. They said they would send me a copy, but I never received it.
My guess is they aren’t accustomed to competition and aren’t sure how to deal with a competitor eating away at their revenue.
We started off the year with a bang when we announced that Solar had been awarded a $1.1 million contract to install a 400-solar panel water heating system on the Marine Barracks at the Paris Island, S.C., U.S. Marine Corps base.
Even though this project isn’t in Kentucky, it still demonstrates solar energy can work in this region. And on a large scale.
After months of planning, engineering, and design work, I’m happy to say we started the project in May and have made progress this summer.
We’ve got all of the solar panels installed on the Marine barracks as well as the industrial size pumping stations. Most of the remaining work is finishing the plumbing and installing the massive water storage tanks.
We hope to have the project completed within the next couple of months.
We also installed a residential solar panel system in May here in Louisville (shown in the photo below).
This one is in the Highlands in the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood and consists of 32 solar panels.
Since the house is located in an area protected by the Louisville Historic Landmarks and Preservation Districts Commission, we had to submit an application to get approval for this installation.
The Commission said they want to promote “green” products and approved the project without hassle. The solar panel system is large enough to reduce the homeowner’s annual electricity bill by 80 percent.
The homeowner also added some much-needed insulation in the attic of the century-old home and we’re hoping that gets the homeowner to net-zero electricity usage.
In June we installed a solar panel system with battery backup at the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Zorn Avenue.
The VA Hospital has three enormous natural gas generators for backup power for the entire complex.
However, the solar panel system we installed would provide battery backup power to a portion of the building in case gas cannot be supplied to the building during a natural disaster.
In July we installed another residential system in the Highlands. This one is close to Bellarmine University and consists of 32 solar panels and should reduce the homeowner’s electricity bill by 100 percent.
The homeowner had the house built on an empty lot (yes, you read that right, an empty lot in the Highlands) about eight months ago and purposely built the house solar ready.
He designed it to have a large south-facing roof and a large PVC conduit in the middle of the house that runs from the attic to the basement for easy access to the breaker box.
We just finished installing another residential system last week.
This system consists of 32 solar panels and will reduce the homeowner’s annual electricity bill by 90 percent.
As always, we’ll monitor it over the next 12 months and add more solar panels if it falls below our projected electricity production.
About Dan Hoffman: Dan Hofmann is President of RegenEn Solar LLC, a solar panel installation company based in Louisville.