Salisbury man goes solar
By Steve Huffman
Joel Hager admits it costs a dollar or two to get a house up and running with solar energy.
But once that initial expense is taken care of, Hager said, it’s smooth sailing.
“Once the cost is offset,” he said, “you’re profiting.”
In the not-too-distant future, Hager expects to be profiting from the solar equipment he was having installed Wednesday at his house on Bonanza Drive northwest of Salisbury.
Technicians from Southern Energy Management in Morrisville (near Raleigh) were at Hager’s house installing 50 huge tubes on a roof panel. The tubes are used to collect solar energy for heating water.
In a couple of weeks, the technicians will return to complete the work, installing photovoltaic panels (in the business they’re referred to as “PV panels”) that will provide for electricity.
Hager estimates that the finished product will provide at least 80 percent of his home’s hot water and electrical needs.
He’ll be charged for the electricity he uses, but reimbursed by Duke Energy and N.C. GreenPower (a nonprofit) at a higher rate, meaning the installation of the solar energy equipment should eventually result in a profit.
But Hager, a pharmacist with Salisbury Pharmacy, said the idea of promoting renewable energy solutions is about more than saving money.
“The idea is about educating people,” Hager said. “It’s going to cost a little more initially, but it’s going to pay back so much more. It’s like trying to decide if you’re going to put in insulation when you’re building a house. It just makes good sense.”
This recent work isn’t the first time that Hager has delved into the world of renewable energy through solar power.
For decades, he had solar panels on his roof that heated his home’s water and also heated a radiant floor in the sunroom.
When Hager had a new roof installed recently, he decided it was time to update his solar power sources.
The tubing ó “evacuated tubes” for those who are sticklers for precise wording ó is the newest and most efficient means of securing solar energy for hot water.
In a like sense, the photovoltaic panels that will be installed at Hager’s in a few weeks are also the most modern available.
They’re efficient and harness large amounts of energy from the sun.
Hager said that for homeowners just getting started in the use of solar energy, it takes six-to-seven years to pay back the investment. For those installing equipment to harness the sun’s power for electricity, the pay-back period is 10-to-12 years.
If a homeowner was starting from scratch with the equipment that Hager’s having installed, the cost would be ó brace yourself ó $30,000 to $35,000.
For a number of reasons, Hager isn’t paying that much.
The hot water tank that was part of his old solar system is still usable and doesn’t have to be replaced. Hager’s daughter, Jamie, is also a green building specialist with Southern Energy Management and likely got her father something of an employee discount on the work.
Hager also noted that even before homeowners start saving with the hot water and electricity their systems produce, funding for the work can be offset through state and federal tax credits.
With the ever-escalating cost of traditional forms of energy, Hager said, the reasoning behind solar energy just makes all the more sense.
“You figure the sun’s free,” he said. “You have to look down the road. The initial cost sometimes scares people off, but there’s so much more involved.”
Max Isaacs is a solar technician with Southern Energy Management and headed a five-member crew that worked Wednesday at Hager’s.
Isaacs said the company also has a small office in Charlotte and said its workers install renewable energy systems across the state.
A couple of weeks ago they were working in Boone, he said. It’s not unusual for them to install solar equipment for homeowners throughout the Piedmont and beyond.
In addition to working with homeowners, the company is involved with niche green builders and several far larger companies. In Morrisville, they’re in the process of constructing a mammoth mega-watt system, one of the largest in the Southeast and one that’s capable of producing 1,000 kilowatts of power.
Isaacs said Southern Energy employs about 50 workers. Many, he said, are college graduates.
Despite their ability to scale ladders and operate power drills and screwdrivers like seasoned pros, most don’t look like typical construction workers. They’re largely an educated lot.
“We come from a lot of different backgrounds,” Isaacs said. “You can learn the skills. The passion to do this is what it’s all about.”
For more information about Southern Energy Management and its work with renewable energy systems, call the company at 919-836-0330 or visit its Web site at: firstname.lastname@example.org.