Altenergy Inc Looks to Expand Solar Power In The Area

Proposed wind turbines and natural gas pipelines have kept energy production a hot issue in the Allegheny Highlands for most of the millennium. One alternative energy source which has yet to be explored on a large scale in the area is solar power. Staunton based solar company Altenergy is looking to change that. The company recently held two informational meetings in Highland and Bath counties, and Vice-President of Operations Joe Moore talked about the reason for the meetings.

“We have done a lot of work doing solar installations in Highland and Bath County, and we thought it would be a good time to roll out a program where people can sign up together, and make us a little more efficient with our installation process, thereby lowering the prices for everybody, and hopefully get more solar out there, that’s the goal.

“We view this as a really good opportunity, and we hope that the people in Highland and Bath Counties do too. Part of what’s inspiring us to do this is that these two communities have not experienced any of these “solarized” programs that are going on throughout the state, and we feel like it’s an opportunity to bring a lot of people together, and take advantage of those cheaper prices by going solar as a group, because there’s real advantages from our perspective – being able to purchase more equipment at the same time, economies of scale pricing going on, and also efficiency of the installation process. If we’ve got two crews over here working, they can bounce back and forth and help each other out. So it’s really trying to do something a little different here, and make solar more accessible for more people, because, of course, the main thing is the cost. That’s always what everybody’s got to look at when they’re making a decision like this. We’re hoping to bring those costs down, through “strategery” – hopefully, that allows people that otherwise couldn’t go solar the opportunity to feel like they can afford it.”

Regional Manager Shawn Cooke explained more about how the system works, and estimated costs and returns.

“The vast majority of the systems we install are what we call a “straight grid tied” system. And those systems are what the utility calls a “net-metered”. So basically you have solar panels on your roof – they generate DC electricity – there’s an inverter that switches it to AC, to be used in your home. Anytime you’re producing more than you’re consuming, your meter spins backwards, and that power goes back out onto the grid, on the retail rate. So in a way, with these systems, the grid is your battery. There’s no battery component, but there’s going to be times of the day where you’re producing more than you need, and then at night you take that power back from the utility.

“An average roof mount system size we do might be a 6KW. So that system retail, with this program, is going to cost about $16,500, and you have a 30% federal tax credit, and that’s going to bring it down to about $11,500. Coupled with a couple other small benefits, you’re probably looking at about a ten year return on investment on that system, that should last 25+ years. Probably five or six years ago, that same system, you’re looking at maybe an 18 year payback period, so there’s definitely a trend in the right direction for the consumer.”

While the typical installation is not a true “off-grid” system, Altenergy can design and install those if the customer desires. For those interested in this cost saving buying cooperative effort, or more information as a whole, Mr. Moore explained further.

“This program that we’re doing now, we plan to have open until September 16th, that’s going to be the last day to sign up. If people want to find out more information about that, we’re going to have another info session, which the date has not been set yet, but please do check us out online – – we’ve got a spiffy new website and there’s more information that we’ll be updating about this program. And another key component with this program, the more people that sign up to do it, the better the pricing is for everybody. So we’re really hoping that everybody will kind of talk to their neighbors and say “Hey, we do this together, we can get some better pricing out of these guys.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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