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Rowan County solar initiative kicks off

Residents from around Rowan County were informed about the benefits of solar energy during a launch event for an organization promoting its use Tuesday.

Solarize Salisbury-Rowan, a partnership between Catawba College’s Center for the Environment and SmartPower, a non-profit marketing firm that promotes clean energy, started its push for the use of solar energy in the county with music, food, drinks and discussion at the Lee Street Theatre.

About 200 people attended the event, which included a presentation by Lane Wallace, the organization’s community outreach manager.

Wallace, who has a master’s degree in environmental management from Duke University, said now is the right time for people to install solar panels on their home or small business.

“The cost is the lowest it’s ever been,” Wallace said. There are also state and federal tax credits that, combined, can recover 65 percent of the cost of purchasing and having solar panels installed,” she said.

Wallace said solar energy is good for the community and the environment. She told the audience that solar panels will dramatically reduce people’s energy bills, require little or no maintenance, and are guaranteed to last at least 20 years.

Bob Voelker, who lives in Granite Quarry, said he and his wife had solar panels installed on their home in May.

“We love it!” he said, “I’m singing its praises.”

Before the panels were installed, Voelker said, his energy bill was between $75 and $80 each month, but since the panels were installed the bill has been around $12.50 a month. He said the $12.50 is his monthly rate for having a utility connection with Duke Energy.

Voelker said the total cost to install the 19 solar panels on his home was around $25,500 and that he is using the tax credits.

John Wear, director of Catawba College’s Center for the Environment, said Solarize Salisbury-Rowan is about informing and making people feel comfortable with the idea of using solar power.

He said solar power can solve a lot of problems society faces due to the use of fossil fuels and help the country toward energy independence.

Using more solar energy and cutting back on fossil fuel will lead to better air quality and less pollution, Ware said.

Several companies that install solar panels, such as Sundance Power Systems and RENU Energy, were also on hand to talk with people and answer questions.

To learn more, visit www.solarizesalisbury-rowan.org.

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