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Couple installs 20 solar panels outside Hidden Hut home

Chloe and Dick Goho have been interested in solar power for years. They’ve had solar power systems in several homes, and their home in Hidden Hut is no exception.

The Gohos recently installed 20 photovoltaic panels, mounted on a concrete pad situated on the southern side of their home. The panels are visible from N.C. 150 and have attracted lots of attention, which suits the couple just fine. They love nothing more than to talk about solar energy.

The panels generate DC power, but a microinverter switches it to AC power to provide their home with electricity.

This is called a grid tie-in system. Homeowners “sell” energy to DukeEnergy and receive a credit on their bill in return.

Pete Bogle, who recently left his position of director for Rowan County Building Code Enforcement, says the installation of solar panels is a small but growing trend throughout the county.

At least four residential solar permits were issued in 2013, Bogle notes. Food Lion corporate office has done an installation, as have Wallace Graham attorneys and Freightliner. The new Rowan Helping Ministries shelter will have PV panels on its roof, along with a solar water heater, because of its high demand for hot water.

There’s also a plan to use PV panels at the new central office building for the schools.

“It’s becoming a little more popular,” Bogle says. “As solar technology becomes more popular, prices go down.”

The Gohos became interested in renewable energy sources when Dick worked at a salt mine in upstate New York. He was 1,200 feet underground, and the temperature was a constant 55 degrees year-round. That’s the way to go, the couple decided.

“We’ve done something solar in every place we’ve lived,” Chloe says.

The couple’s goal has been to reduce their overall energy usage. Their home is well insulated. They have a solar hot water heating. They’ve installed LED lights throughout their home, as well as solar skylights in what was a too-dark kitchen.

“We have reduced our consumption by 22 percent,” Chloe says.

In October, the Gohos’ kilowatt usage was 320KW per month. The same time last year, the usage was 800.

“We’re looking a some very, very good reduction,” Chloe says. They expect that during months when there’s lots of sun, they won’t have a power bill at all.

The Gohos attended a seminar at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College presented by Ken Clifton.

“I think we need to do what we can to get ourselves away from foreign oil,” Chloe says. “Everything we can do to better the environment and decrease dependence on foreign oil is a step in the right direction. So we’re doing our little part.”

The Gohos received a 65 percent total federal and state tax credit in purchasing their solar system.

“If you saw something 65 percent off, you’d probably buy it whether you need it or not,” Dick says.

The Gohos estimate that the system will pay for itself within eight years — they don’t have large bills to begin with.

The Gohos’ typical electricity bill is $100 per month for their 1,600-square-foot home. Their October bill was $40, with the new system only on for two weeks out of that month.

The couple has a computer program that monitors the system’s daily use — how much energy is generated in 15-minute intervals.

“I was pleasantly surprised with our November bill,” Chloe says. “The month of November was so overcast and rainy, but we got 25 percent of our electricity from that solar system. Even on the gloomiest, rainiest days, that system was still making electricity. I was tickled.”

Chloe, a retired financial analyst, thinks it’s the coolest program ever. Dick is retired from the state of New York. They retired to North Carolina since Chloe was tired of being “rugged and hardy” in the wintertime.

“I wanted to move to North Carolina and be a wimp!” she says.

Oscho Rufty has been interested in solar power for years. The recent tax incentives convinced him to install a system at his home off St. Luke’s Church Road.

The system has been online since Nov. 1. Summer rains caused weeks of delays.

Rufty’s wife, Vicki, attended a program presented by Clifton at Dan Nicholas Park on renewable energy. She encouraged Rufty to install a system for their home. Clifton served as Rufty’s mentor, and Rufty says he’ll be happy to do the same for another homeowner.

Rufty chose the system because it’s a good investment, he says. “Solar panels are guaranteed to operate at 80 percent efficiency for 20 years. Your return on your investment is four to five years with a 20-year investment.”

Rufty figured out the kilowatt hours their home needed in a year’s time, and chose the system from there. “You don’t have to go and create your own system,” he says.

The Ruftys’ home needed 27 panels to satisfy the annual need for electricity, but he rounded up to 30 since each of the three frames he chose holds 10 panels each. Therefore, he finds himself working with a surplus. He’s considering buying an electric car the next time he purchases a vehicle.

His December electric bill was $34. His previous average was $125 a month.

“My expectation is to have a $35 energy bill for the next 20 years,” says Rufty, who serves as facilities manager for St. John’s Lutheran Church. “I wouldn’t have done it had I not looked at the numbers. You know I’m a numbers person.”

DukeEnergy, Rufty says, was good to work with. “They were very eager to work with me. The system was a breeze to turn on.”

With his energy surplus, Rufty asked his wife for an electric can opener for Christmas. “It only makes ‘cents,’” he says with a grin.

The Gohos are planning an open house once the weather gets a little better. Watch the Post for a day and time.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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