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Solar revolution comes to the area

In the last three years, Sid Vogelpohl, who lives on Pine Ridge south of the city limits, has spent an average of $113 a year to provide his home with electricity.

That’s right. An average of $113 a year.

Sometime this week, David Cravens, a Paris attorney who also lives on Pine Ridge, will turn on the same system Vogelpohl installed in his house three years ago. Cravens expects the system will provide his home with 55 percent to 60 percent of the electricity it needs.

The systems they installed are solar. The solar revolution has come to the Paris area.

Both men installed solar systems purchased from Rocky Grove Sun Company of northwest Arkansas. Right now, solar power systems are still expensive — Cravens described his system as “pricey” — but both took advantage of federal tax credits for solar systems and Vogelpohl also took advantage of a then-existing state tax credit when he installed his system three years ago. The state tax credit no longer exists.

Vogelpohl said when state and federal tax credits were combined, they paid for 70 percent of the cost of his system.

Even at that, both admit it will take years to recover the cost.

“They told me the average is around 15 to 18 years to recover the cost,” Cravens said. “It could be less than that depending on the price of electricity.”

“Over time, it’s worth it,” Vogelpohl said. “When I tell people what I’m paying they can’t believe it, but you’ve also got to tell them about the cost.”

Vogelpohl installed 20 solar panels when he built his home. He has since added four more. He also has a propane tank to run his fireplace in the winter. He is producing and average of 7,013 kilowatts of electricity a year and is using an average of 6,907 kilowatts of power for his 2,700 square foot home. It’s no wonder that his bill from OGE is usually the monthly minimum of $8.50.

Cravens has installed 20 solar panels on his garage and another 72 on his house. Cravens said his electric bills averages between $300 and $600 a month, depending on the time of year. His home uses an average of 43,000 kilowatts of electricity a year and his system can produce 25,000 kilowatts a year.

“Conservatively, I expect it will produce 55 percent to 60 percent of what I need,” Cravens said.

He is expecting to see an impact when he gets his electric bill in August from the city of Paris.

Both homeowners remain connected to their electricity suppliers. That means they can still get electricity, if needed, and if they produce more than needed, state law allows them to carry four months of power into the next yearly production cycle. After that, it’s gone.

While many experts say solar is the future for power generation, Roger Goodson, head of the city’s electric department, maintains it remains out of reach for most homeowners.

“I don’t think a lot of people are looking into it because of the cost,” he said. “The initial cost is real high and they’ll tell you up front that it’ll take years to recover the cost.”

But the revolution is coming, despite that.

“The price will drop as the technology improves,” Goodson said. “David is getting in on it early. But, 20 years from now, solar panels won’t be that uncommon.”

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