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Council member suggests looking into solar energy for borough buildings

March 21, 2012

Punxsutawney Borough Council member Eric Story explains how the two solar energy panels he installed for an apartment have brought the electric bill for the month to single digits and near zero. (Photo by Larry McGuire)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — As energy prices continue to rise, a newly-elected member of Punxsutawney Borough Council had a suggestion on how the borough can save money during these high-cost times.

Eric Story said as an experiment, he set up solar panels and ran the wires to a circuit breaker box for safety. The experiment — using solar energy, he said — has saved him money and could be used in some of the borough’s buildings.

Story said when the green lights are flashing on the inverter box, it shows him that the solar panels are working and creating electricity.

He said so far, he has spent $515 on this experiment, which includes two solar panels, circuit breaker boxes and an inverter box, which he purchased via the Internet.

Story said he was always interested in alternative energy, and a couple of doors down from him, he has a tenant doing the same thing.

“Last year, his electric bill was zero,” Story said, adding that one month, the tenant would have an $8 bill, and the next month, he would have an $8 credit.

Story said sometimes, it is hard to tell how much money someone saved with the electric company, because one bill is an actual bill, and the next one is an estimate.

When he gets the next actual bill on the apartment he rents, he should be able to see how much he is saving, Story said.

From what he can estimate, the savings is between 35 and 50 percent for his tenant, who rents an apartment above his garage, he said.

Story said the apartment has an electric hot water tank and an electric dryer.

“During the day, that electric meter doesn’t spin around,” he said. “At night, it does spin because there’s no daylight. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sunny or overcast; the solar panels continue to generate electricity.”

Story said all you have to do is plug it into an electric outlet, and when the solar panels are working, the electric is pushed back to the utility pole.

“I didn’t think it was this simple to install,” he said. “I’m going to add another panel to see if I can lower my electric bill to zero all the time.

“The warranty on the solar panels is 25 years, but the manufacturer said it could last as long as 50 years,” Story said.

He said the only thing that can ruin a solar panel is if moisture gets inside.

Story said he’s even investigating the possibility of constructing his own solar panels.

“A solar panel costs $179 to purchase, and on the Internet, it shows how you can make your own for $85,” he said.

That’s why he brought up the possibility of experimenting with solar energy at last Monday’s Punxsutawney Borough Council meeting. And he was told by other council members that a good place to start would be the Punxsutawney Memorial Library.

“I was talking with Bill Spencer, council member, who said that the library’s biggest expense is its electric bill,” Story said. “The fire halls would be another area where the fire companies could save money on its electric bill, especially Elk Run and Lindsey.”

Story said with any investment, there is an initial expense.

“If you’re thinking 20 to 25 years down the road, you could save $500 per month, and it will pay for itself in no time,” he said. “I’m no expert at this, but it might not be feasible to put solar panels at the library.”

Council President Larry Chenoga said council should investigate to see if such a suggestion would be feasible.

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