Cleveland solar panel expert extols virtues of green living
After trying to find someone to install a renewable energy system in her Cleveland home, Erika Weliczko got the inspiration to start REpower SOLUTIONS in 2004. “I was looking into solar panels for environmental reasons and wanted to see what I could do,” she says. “But there wasn’t enough activity in Northeast Ohio.” The former math teacher — who also holds a degree in engineering — services the entire state.
What are the benefits of using solar panels?
“You can create your own electricity in your home and provide a return to your bank account and the planet. Creating electricity with solar helps reduce coal emissions and radioactive waste, diversifies your energy supply and helps stabilize costs over the long-term.”
What’s the best orientation for solar panels and how does the installation process work?
“Solar modules should face south and the sunny areas should be free of shade year-round. A site survey is [conducted] to locate the sunny areas on a property, then we determine what can fit and how much electricity the array might produce — 350 to 400 square feet of modules in a sunny location creates half the electricity used by an average home in Ohio. Once the permits are obtained, a simple residential solar array might take less than a week to install.”
Do solar panels require a lot of maintenance?
“Most solar modules have a warranty of 25 years for producing at least 80 percent of their original power and they’re meant to be outside and take normal weather abuse. Some of the electrical equipment that processes the solar electricity might need an upgrade over the 20- to 30-year life of the system and backup batteries need to be replaced within 10 years.“
Does Ohio offer a tax credit or incentive for homeowners who install solar panels?
“There is a 30 percent federal tax credit available for the installation of solar. The Ohio state program is funded by customers of AEP, FirstEnergy, Duke, and Dayton Power & Light. Therefore, you must be a customer of one of these utilities to apply for this grant. Together, these incentives account for more than 60 percent of the initial cost of a system and allow your solar project to make money for you once it’s paid for itself. This payback will happen even faster as electricity rates increase.”
Do people have misconceptions about solar panels, such as thinking they’re big and bulky?
“People think solar is too expensive or doesn’t work in Ohio. While there are initial costs involved, the sun is free. Traditional nuclear power plants aren’t attractive in comparison to a solar panel and can’t be done on a smaller scale.”