The Custer, WI-based Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) organized a Wisconsin Solar Tour Oct 2. The tour showcased a sampling of solar and wind technologies, green building techniques, and sustainable living ideas from across the state.
Lake Michigan Wind and Sun of Sturgeon Bay (LMWS) was one of 18 businesses and private homes in the northeast region opened to the public for the tour. Owners John Hippensteel and his wife Ann are running what they call a laboratory on their County U property, with four large and several smaller wind turbines and a number of solar arrays on the property that they use for energy and for research.
John offered some tips for those looking into wind or solar for their home or business. These are also the recommendations of Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy (www.focusonenergy.com), a comprehensive resource for those interested in exploring renewable technologies.
1) Invest in energy efficiency and conservation. Make sure your home is saving as much energy as possible by using energy efficient appliances and lighting. Watch your energy consumption and weatherize your home or business to minimize energy loss. In general, for every dollar that is spent on conservation and efficiency, you can save between three and six dollars on your renewable system.
2) Do your research. Know how much energy your home or business uses when it is at its most energy efficient. Get a solar or wind site assessment to know if your property is a good candidate for renewable energy.
3) Know your budget. How much can you afford and will it cover what you expect of your energy needs?
Wisconsin provides planning and installation incentives that generally provide a 15 – 20 percent return on small to medium sized systems. In addition, there are currently federal tax credits of up to 30 percent for renewable energy.
Solar panels have come down in price as of late, but that savings is somewhat offset by the increased cost of the inverters (that change the current from DC to AC) and wiring. However, with both state and federal incentives, renewables are in closer reach for those who want to decrease their monthly utility costs and carbon footprint.
A good way to think of the cost of your renewable system is that you are prepaying your utilities upfront and are doing your part toward energy independence. It may take years to break even, but those who have incorporated renewables say seeing the power meter run backward is enough to bring a smile to their face. It’s not always just about the financial return, in many cases looking into renewable energy sources is investing in future generations.