Installation of solar panels in Goshen surpass expectations
GOSHEN, Ind. -- With an almost five-fold increase in Goshen homes turning to solar power since summer, volunteers with a regional initiative feel a tipping point has been reached.
The 17-member Solarize team, one of several throughout the state, oversaw workshops for more than 370 people interested in solar power during late summer and early fall. They say 74 homes, one church and a business in the Elkhart, Goshen and South Bend area all went solar as a result, with 21 more installations planned for 2018.
Most of the activity was around Goshen, which saw residential installations rise from 11 to 52, and South Bend, which saw an increase from six to 22. Solar installations across northern Indiana are expected to generate more than 700 kW of power once they're all up and running.
The numbers were even bigger than the team expected, Leah Thill, who helped coordinate volunteers, said in an announcement from the group.
"The Solarize team thought we were optimistic with a goal of 60 installations, but we got a bigger response than we imagined, particularly around Goshen," she said.
Glenn Gilbert, a team leader in Goshen, hopes the enthusiasm surrounding solar will continue to grow as people with newfound education and experience talk to their neighbors.
"We achieved our goal of reaching a tipping point. It will no longer be unusual to drive by homes and churches with solar," Gilbert said. "I talked to many people that said they have wanted to install solar for years, but didn't know where to begin. This Solarize project gave them the encouragement and information to make the leap."
Workshop attendees learned about whether their home might be suitable for solar panels and about how to identify barriers like shading, roof orientation, cost or any extra steps they may need to take. Those who thought their home was a good candidate arranged for a site visit, and about 70 percent of visits resulted in a new solar-powered home, according to information from Gilbert.
Participants benefited from a group discount from Solar Energy Systems, the Nappanee company contracted for the program. It further brought down costs that Gilbert said have dropped significantly since he had a solar system installed in 2010.
A 5 kW system now costs around $14,000 to install, rather than $35,000 to $40,000, according to Gilbert. The per-watt cost for a small residential system dropped from the $7 to $9 range eight years ago to $2.80 or less.
Brian Burkholder, president of Solar Energy Systems, noted the program ensured that people were seriously considering solar by the time his crews made their site visits, and were well-informed on their costs and electricity needs. His installers worked long hours for months to help as many people as possible meet the Dec. 31 deadline, after which, under a new Indiana law, homeowners will see significantly less compensation from utilities for sending excess power into the electrical grid.
"We geared up with new equipment and an expanded facility so that we were installing three to four homes a day in good weather by the end," he said. "We wish we could have helped everyone make it."
Source: The Elkhart Truth, http://bit.ly/2DeKqZD
Information from: The Elkhart Truth, http://www.elkharttruth.com