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Salisbury residents choose solar power

By Rebecca Rider

Center for the Environment

Installing solar electricity in your home may be easier than you think, Salisbury residents Cress and Lori Goodnight proved. They recently installed solar panels on their Sterling Court home.

Goodnight did a lot of research on solar energy — reading articles online and talking to various solar companies — when he decided to use a sustainable and environmentally-friendly energy source for his home. Solar has come a long way in recent years, Goodnight says. In fact, the cost per kilowatt hour has decreased 10-fold since 1977. Today, the cost of photovoltaic energy is comparable to natural gas and less than coal and nuclear energy. It’s “much more affordable and practical for a homeowner,” he says.

But Goodnight figured out a way to make solar energy even more affordable: He installed it himself with the help of an electrician and his assistant. Solar panels carry a big up-front cost, he said — reworking the home’s electrical wiring system, hiring a consulting company to determine the number of panels needed and ordering the panels themselves.

He had to consult his energy company and undergo county inspections, but installation took only about two weeks. His house has solar now, and he loves it.

With the newer, long-lived solar panels he installed, he hopes to have a return on the panels in five to 10 years. “It will pay for itself,” he said.

Now is a good time to install solar because there are state and federal tax credits that make it an affordable form of energy, Goodnight says. The new Solarize Salisbury-Rowan initiative can help homeowners who choose to hire a contractor discover how they can keep costs affordable. “It’s the opportune time to do it,” he says.

Solarize Salisbury-Rowan is a community initiative designed to inform residents of the advantages of solar power for their homes and businesses and to reduce costs through competitive bids by pre-approved installers. It is a partnership between SmartPower, a national non-profit organization focusing on clean energy, and the Center for the Environment at Catawba College.

For homeowners interested in pursuing solar, Goodnight has a few tips. Having newer shingles on your roof is important for the stability of the panels. While panels will hardly ever operate at 100 percent efficiency in this area due to weather conditions, there are things you can do to improve it.  For Salisbury residents, Goodnight suggests installing panels so that they face south or southeast, which will give them the maximum sun exposure.

Goodnight is pleased with his solar panels. He was looking for clean, sustainable energy and feels he found it.

“And I know it helps the environment,” he says, “It’s a fact.”

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