Janesville57.8°

Businessman claims first-year solar savings of about $850 on bills

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JAMES P. LEUTE
September 23, 2011
— Jim Erickson glows as he reflects on the first-year numbers generated by a solar panel installation at his commercial office building on Janesville’s west side.

Placed into service in August 2010, the 48-panel roof-mounted system saved Erickson 7,149 kilowatt hours of electricity when compared to a similar time period for the previous year.


While that savings translated into more than $850 in Erickson’s pocket, the Janesville businessman takes more pride in knowing that his building is leaving a green legacy that will benefit his heirs.


Erickson’s goal for the building at 3618 Ridge Drive is to produce as close to 100 percent of the building’s electricity needs as possible. In its first year of operation, the system produced 11,500 kilowatt hours, 7 percent more than originally expected.


“This is an outstanding result,” Erickson said.


Erickson’s results will be on display Saturday, Oct. 1, when the property is part of the 2011 Wisconsin Solar Tour. Several other locations in Janesville and Rock County also are participating.


The tour features nearly 100 sites in the state open for free tours. Sites will showcase advances in energy efficient construction, new products, sustainable landscaping and renewable energy technologies.


“The tour demonstrates that renewable energy is practical, reliable and affordable in today’s economy,” said Doug Stingle of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association that organizes the annual tour.


“You have the chance to talk with people who live and work with renewable energy and green building features.”


Solar power is by far the Earth’s most available energy source.


By its nature, solar power—the conversion of sunlight into electricity—is an intermittent energy source. It is not always available and is normally supplemented by storage or, in the Erickson’s case, another energy source such as Alliant Energy.


The only significant problem with solar power is installation cost, although that’s been dropping because of technological efficiencies.


For Erickson, the system cost about $66,000, which was reduced by rebates from the federal government and programs such as Focus on Energy.


While the payback will be 10 to 12 years, he’s happy with the immediate reduction in his monthly energy bill, which for the first year averaged about $71 a month.


On occasion, his system has produced excess electricity that he’s been able to sell back to the local power grid to offset his installation costs.


“I’m concerned about payback and everything else, and from a business point of view, that’s important,” he said. “But I’m going to be 83 years old pretty soon, and I can see that the legacy of this is something that I can leave my heirs, and, if they still have the building, they will benefit.


“Plus, I like to do this because it’s fun.”


IF YOU GO

What: 2011 Wisconsin Solar Tour


When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1.


Where: Rock County participants include:


-- Agsun Corp., 1321 S. Jackson St., Janesville. Solar electric.


-- Antech Properties, 3618 Ridge Drive, Janesville. Solar electric.


-- City of Edgerton, 12 Albion St., Edgerton. Solar electric, passive solar design and geothermal.


-- Doug and Karen Zweizig home, 6037 N. Finn Road, Evansville. Solar electric and geothermal.


-- Lyle Ackerman home, 4312 Pheasant Run, Janesville. Solar electric.


-- Patterson Storage, 1012 W. Delavan Drive, Janesville. Solar electric.


-- UW-Rock County, 2909 Kellogg Ave., Janesville. Solar electric.


Cost: Free


For more information: Go online to midwestrenew.org/solartour.

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