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Nature’s View: Don Motz: Electric Solar Panels

Ray Harden
Ray Harden

Don Motz, of rural Perry, is helping the environment and will be paying less for electricity. Photovoltaic cells or solar panels have been installed on the roof of his house by C & B Solar Company from Ankeny, Iowa. Each one of the eighteen panels weighs about fifty pounds and produces 285 watts of electricity. The panels are hooked up in series producing a total of five kilowatts on sunny days. Smaller photovoltaic cells are commonly used in calculators and watches. These cells are also used in remote locations where electricity is not available or is too expensive to install, such as river monitoring stations, mountaintop radio relays, highway signs, and most of the satellites in space are powered by solar electricity. This system is called “active solar electricity”. When sunlight hits the thin layers silicon and other chemicals in the cells it caused electrons to flow and produce an electric current. During the winter months and on cloudy days less electricity is produced and no electricity is produced at night.

In Motz’s home, the solar produced electricity flows though an “inverter” changing it to alternating current so it can be used in the house along with the electricity that comes from Alliant Energy. If more energy is being produced by the solar panels than can be used the excess electricity is metered as it flows out of the house onto the electric grid and he receives a credit on his utility bill for the extra electricity the solar cells produce.

According to estimates these solar cells will produce about 8,500 kilowatts of electricity; this is about 95 percent of what is used in Motz’s home on a yearly average. Alliant Energy funded half of this $15,000 project along with state and federal tax credits; Motz had to pay a small percentage, and he says the system will pay for its self in a few years. Motz has also used “passive solar heat” for several years. He currently has a four foot by eight foot solar heat collector that looks like a glass box on the side of his house. This passive system pumps 140 degree hot air into the house during the winter. He is planning to expand this passive solar heating system next year so he will use even less electricity. He states that by doing this he will lower his utility bills and solar energy is better for the environment. He believes if more solar energy is used to produce electricity there will be less demand to burn fossil fuels that release harmful greenhouse gases that pollute the atmosphere.

He encourages other interested people to take advantage of the tax rebates and grants from Alliant Energy as soon as possible because they will expire in December of 2013.