Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

June 23, 2011

Doctor's office goes green with solar panels

GOSHEN — The push for a greener, more environmentally friendly Goshen got a major boost this month with the installation of a large, new solar panel array at the Goshen Family Physicians office.

Located at 1811 Charlton Court, the Goshen doctor’s office is home to business partners and fellow doctors Timothy Thut and Lane Reed, who recently contracted with Middlebury-based Home Energy LLC to have the impressive solar array installed.

“My daughter, Amy, teaches environmental education at the high school level, and she was interested in having a solar system for her home, but it’s too shady and they couldn’t do it,” Thut said of the origins of the solar array at his office. “Since she couldn’t do it, she talked us into looking into it for our office, which has good sun exposure.”

After consulting with Home Energy President Leon Bontrager and his staff on the best type of solar array for the building, a 19.5 kilowatt system of 83 individual solar photovoltaic panels was selected. Photovoltaics are best known for their ability to generate electric power by using solar cells to harness the energy of the sun.

“A solar array that size will produce 25,322 kw hours a year,” said Russ Draper, renewable energy consultant with Home Energy LLC. “That’s enough to reduce CO2 emissions by 497 tons over the next 25 years, which is equivalent to planting 8.5 acres of trees, or removing 1,615,812 miles worth of car exhaust from our roads.”

Once completed, the new array will be one of the largest of its kind in the Goshen area, allowing the company to recoup nearly two-thirds of its energy consumption through a combination of the energy it produces with the new array, as well as the many tax credits and incentives available to green technology customers.

“It’s what you call a grid-tied system, which is connected to the power company,” Draper said. “Whenever they use less electricity than they are producing, then the meter spins slower, so they’ll be compensating a percentage of their daily usage.”

In the past, installation of solar panels by the average consumer has often meant a large up-front cost coupled with a long return on investment sometimes stretching into the decades. Such deterrents have lead many potential customers to shy away from solar in favor of less expensive forms of green technology.

However, as technology begins to improve with the promise of a much quicker return on investment, that less than ideal scenario seems to be changing, drawing more and more green-thinking consumers like the Thut’s and the Reed’s into the solar fold.

“With our system, theoretically we should be able to break even after about seven years,” Reed said. “And that’s based on current energy costs. If they would go up, then that would of course be even better. But all in all that’s not too bad.”

What’s more, Reed said installation of the new solar array at Goshen Family Physicians has encouraged everyone in the office to look for additional ways to save energy and reduce their overall carbon footprint.

“That’s the really cool part about it,” Reed said. “In addition to the obvious benefits of generating our own electricity, it sort of prompted us to look at our energy consumption as a whole. It encouraged us to kind of go through and think about what things we can do in terms of limiting our consumption, so we’ve done some things around the office since we started talking about this just to decrease our power usage in other areas as well.”

It is just that type of mentality that has Draper and his fellow green energy advocates encouraged about where this movement may be headed not only for the state, but for the nation as a whole.

“The thought process is certainly out there,” Draper said. “I would say there is certainly more of an awareness of green technologies that has emerged over the past decade.

“Are we as progressive as some other states in the country? No. But that may not always be the case.”

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