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Mulling solar? Think of Long-Term Payback - Vindicator

Anyone contemplating installing solar panels should view them as an investment in many decades of energy cost savings, according to a local solar-panel installer and a local user of this technology that offers free fuel from the sun.

“It’s a long-term investment. You have to have a lot of foresight,” said Dan Quinlan, co-owner of Valley Energy Solar, which is based near Salem in Mahoning County’s Green Township.

“These systems will last 30 to 40 years, so they are a very long-term asset,” Quinlan added.

“You’re almost insulated from utility-rate increases over those next 30 years,” he said.

“We wanted to cut our [electric] bills in the long term and enhance our sustainability well into the future because utilities are a significant cost for us,” said Liberty Merrill, land reuse director at the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., which has two solar-panel installations.

The organization’s location provides a highly visible opportunity to showcase this environmentally friendly, nearly maintenance-free technology along heavily traveled Canfield Road, she added.

Quinlan’s company installed at YNDC’s Iron Roots Urban Farm a 2.4-kilowatt solar-panel array, which he said cost less than $10,000, on a produce cooler roof in late 2012, followed a year later by a 9.4-kilowatt pole-mounted solar array that cost about $40,000.

The two south-facing arrays combined supply 30 to 40 percent of the electricity needs of the farm and YNDC headquarters, which are located at 820 Canfield Road, Merrill said.

That amounts to an estimated savings of $1,100 a year in electric costs for the urban revitalization organization, she said, adding that Ohio Edison supplies all of the remainder of the electric needs of the farm and headquarters at a cost of about $1,800 a year.

Although it obtained a grant from the Columbus-based Finance Fund for its larger installation, YNDC, as a nonprofit organization, did not benefit from the 30 percent tax credit for homeowners and businesses that install solar panels, Merrill said.

Therefore, she estimated it will take three decades at current electric rates to achieve energy savings equaling the cost of YNDC’s installation.

If electric rates rise substantially, that time could be significantly shortened, she said.

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