Over the span of only a few years, the use of solar energy has grown throughout the nation as well as in the state of North Carolina. But even with tax incentives offered by the state and federal governments as well as an incentive program by Duke Energy, it is still difficult to find individuals who have chosen to implement solar systems for residential use. Many see it as an uphill climb this early into the development of the technology.
“Solar energy is the ultimate in renewable energy, unfortunately, the technology is expensive compared to the seemingly minimal gains we can get from it currently,” says Franklin native Brandon Hood when asked about his outlook on the energy source. “But I do believe that as time goes by, it will continue to progress into the future and become more user friendly.”
Another Franklin resident cited the lack of available information concerning the technology.
“I've been very interested in the use of solar energy, but it's so hard to find information about the technology,” said Kyle Garner. “I think it's an excellent alternative to consider. I'm really excited to see how things develop in the future.”
Though the technology may be in its infant stages, there are still some who have dared to put it to use such as a Macon County man who requested to remain anonymous, but was willing to discuss his road towards becoming highly reliant on solar energy.
“The biggest reason I took these steps was to use the power grid as little as possible,” he said. “We live a quiet life and we just prefer to keep to ourselves.”
The man and his wife have used solar energy for approximately two years now and have added to their system a piece at a time as money and materials become available.
“We don't have a ton of money to throw towards the setup. We're on a real tight budget of Social Security so we've just built it as we could,”
He began his process by acquiring ten batteries— used to store the collected energy. After doing this, he and his wife saved up their money to purchase a Magnum 4,000 watt inverter, a “good one.” A power inverter converts the low voltage DC to the 120 volts AC that runs most appliances, but also can charge the batteries if connected to the utility grid. From there he began to purchase the PV (photovoltaic) panels.
“A friend of mine in Tallahassee, Fla., was able to help me find the first four panels that I used and after that I went straight to the manufacturer in Georgia, a company called Mage Solar. The panels they had were becoming obsolete so I ended up getting 12 at a really good price. They were about $200 each for 180 watt panels. From there I went to the electric supply store and got some wire to run. My panels are about 90 feet from my batteries so I had to run the wire quite a ways.”
If there was an occurrence where the system were to fail to produce enough energy to run his home, he can always switch over to the power grid that most people use to power their homes. The summer months have been fairly cloudy so far this year, but according to this homeowner, he still manages to keep his power bill extremely low.
“I really enjoy having a $25 a month power bill. I do have to flip over to the power grid sometimes when there are a few consecutive days where there's no sun out. The grid charges the batteries in about an hour or two and then we can go back off the grid,” he says.
The most crucial aspect that he emphasized when trying to implement solar energy into your living routine is to cut back on some of your daily conveniences.
“The most important thing a person can do is cut back on their usage,” he suggests. “We got rid of our hotwater heater and put in ondemand propane, and we got rid of our electric dryer and put clothes lines out. We also cut out the dishwasher, and over the span of a year or so, we replaced all of our light bulbs with LEDs.”
Overall, he is happy with his investment of what he estimates to be somewhere around $7,000 to $8,000 which is pretty low considering that a basic set-up would cost at least $12,000 if a professional were to install a system.
"Eventually it will pay for itself, but for us, it never really was about the money. Don't get me wrong, we like having such a low bill, but we really just wanted to drop off the grid. When you look at how everything is these days, we just thought it was best.”