Open House demonstrates benefits of solar power
By Michael M. Barrick
WALLACE, W.Va. – Autumn Long and Dan Harrington, a couple living in the heart of West Virginia’s fracking region, opened their home to the public on July 12 to demonstrate the potential of solar power as a reliable and cost-effective renewable energy source. Approximately 50 people from at least 13 counties – some traveling several hours – turned out on an overcast day that included periods of light rain.
While such weather might seem less than desirable for demonstrating solar energy, attendees learned that even on a cloudy day, the solar panels the couple had installed by PIMBY – a company based in the small mountain town of Thomas, W.Va. – were supplying all of the couple’s power needs that day. While the panels are capable of producing 2,700 kilowatts of power per hour, on this day it was fluctuating between 800 and 1,200 kilowatts per hour. Even at that relatively low production, the proof was there for everyone to see – an electric meter spinning backwards.
The couple also showed a recent electric bill showing that they have hours banked with their local power company, Harrison Rural Electrification Association, Inc. As Long pointed out, the credits they’ve earned include not only the house they have powered by the solar panels, but another home on the property, Harrington’s childhood home. The original house is not powered by the panels, but as Long pointed out, under West Virginia law, a home on a contiguous parcel of land is eligible for any credits earned by the landowner’s own power production.
As Matt Sherald, owner of PIMBY pointed out, “They are their own power plant.”
Explaining why they had opened their home for the day, Long said, “The basic reason we wanted to host an open house was to give people an opportunity to view a working solar array up close, and to demonstrate that it is possible for regular people like us to go solar and thereby save money, conserve resources, and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.” She added, “I hope our advocacy will help promote the use of renewables in West Virginia and inspire others to consider going solar.”
John Cobb, a Lewis County resident who attended the gathering, said “Thanks for giving up your day to help educate us on the power of solar energy creation which will be the wave of the future here in West Virginia as the price of solar power installation continues to drop.” Long responded, “You have perfectly summed up the contrast between the current situation of fossil fuel extraction and the potential for a renewable future. I sincerely believe that this nation and world is on the brink of a radical and rapid shift in how our energy is produced, distributed, and consumed, and I am excited to be part of that change.”
Long also provided tours of the couple’s home, pointing out the ways they limit their power usage. They have no air conditioner, no water pump (as the house receives its water from a spring above the house – in short, relying upon gravity), have purchased the most energy-efficient appliances available, heat with a wood stove, and have all LED lighting. She shared, “We’re super into energy efficiency.” So, she noted, “We have been producing way more power than we consume.”
The couple, who own Goldenseal Garden Care, a landscaping company, spent approximately $13,000 on the system. The majority – $10,000 – was invested in the panels. The balance went for the inverter, wiring and hardware. The panels are actually several hundred feet from the home so that they would be located to maximize exposure to the sun. They built a small out building to place them on and ran the wire underground to their home.
As visitors checked out the out building and the home, and visited in small groups to discuss the work done by the couple, Long said, “Now is the time to make the transition to renewables for financial and environmental reasons.”
© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.
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