Solar Bloomington-Normal Shines With First Installation

Jul 12, 2016

A  family in Normal is trying to start a trend towards solar energy systems for houses in the community. Paul and Kathy Packard own the home with the Solar Bloomington-Normal program's first solar installation.

Their system is made up of 24 solar modules and will produce over 7,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. Kathy Packard said she expects their utility bill to go down substantially with the help of a net-metering system that tracks excess power.

"There's no storage. It goes back to the power company grid as if we don't use it. So, then we get a credit and we can use that credit to help pay for our power at night or in the winter,"said Packard. 

Kathy said her house already had a geothermal system for 13 years and it made sense to go solar after seeing a presentation by the Ecology Action Center. 

Participating in Solar Bloomington-Normal makes solar energy 15-20% cheaper per watt than what individuals can typically find in the market. Additionally, the more people participate, the more the overall price lowers.

Once program participants collectively reach 100kW of capacity, everyone gets an additional 1% off their per watts cost, with further discounts guaranteed as higher program kW capacity is reached. Program participants have a deadline of September 30 to get contracts signed.

Paul Packard said the solar panels have a 25-year life span that can help save costs and the environment. 

"Straight Up Solar gave a really interesting presentation with their proposal team information about the reduction in coal usage over the life-span of this. It was kind of amazing," said Packard.

Paul said the solar panels can reduce 71.1 tons of coal burned. He said their new solar array will also produce enough clean energy each year to offset more than 11,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and 3,000 gallons of water.

The Solar Bloomington-Normal program will continue offering free information sessions, called Solar Power Hours, until August.