Solar co-op in Cuyahoga County hopes to install panels in more than 100 more homes

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 8:55 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - -The idea of living more sustainably, and saving money on monthly bills, sounds pretty appealing. But can it be done by going solar in Cleveland, given our often cloudy and cold weather?

Sandy and David Feicht are part of a new movement in Cuyahoga County, participating in a solar co-op in Cuyahoga County.

They are doing their part to live sustainably. They compost, recycle, and drive a Prius.

Their Lakewood house is also now solar-powered.

But the move wasn’t all environmentally motivated.

“We haven’t had a bill since April,” said Feicht.

They installed panels on their roof and haven’t looked back.

“During the summer months, we’ve been producing more than we use, so we sell it back to the grid for fifty cents on the dollar,” Feicht said.

David says they’re setting themselves up for lower monthly expenses ahead of their upcoming retirement.

To make the change and flip the switch, they joined “S.U.N.,” Solar United Neighbors, solar co-op.

“All the solar co-op is, is a buyer’s club. We pull people together and get a group of 50, 100, 150 if we can,” said Tristan Rader, the Ohio program director for S.U.N.

He says anybody in Cuyahoga County can participate in the new co-op.

Once you sign up, bids are solicited from installers. Members select one of those installers to service the group. Houses are then vetted for viability. Good candidates have south, east or west-facing exposure and are free of shade during peak hours. Members then get an analysis of the specific wattage and panels needed.

“Solar United Neighbors does a good job of rooftop solar more normal for folks in Cuyahoga County,” said Mike Foley, Director of Sustainability for the county.

The county funds solar united neighbors, to the tune of $25,000 per year, to run the co-op and educate the public on going solar.

Foley says participating in this “buyers club” saves residents 15-20% than if they did it on their own.

But payback on the cost of the equipment through energy bill savings usually takes at least ten years.

“We can afford to do it now and hopefully get the buyback within fifteen years or so,” said Feicht.

It is a significant upfront investment of $10,000-15,000. Foley says that’s why only 20-25% of members end up with panels on their roofs.

“That’s one of the issues about being in Ohio compared to being on the east coast or west coast where electricity prices are higher, that payback is a lot quicker also states on the west coast, and east coast has better state policy. There’s a lot more incentives at the state level to help reduce those costs,” he said.

There is a federal tax credit of 26% to help offset the cost. But many northeast Ohioans have questions about more than just financing a switch to solar.

They also wonder about our weather.

“It works here. On average, we receive about half an hour less a day of peak sun than Florida does. We receive more sun than Germany does, and Germany has 33-35% of their electricity coming from rooftop solar panels,” said Foley.

“Proof is in the pudding once people see it on their neighbor’s homes when people start getting to know the other folks in the co-op. Introducing them to people who do have solar. We’ve helped more than 150 people in Cuyahoga County go solar so far,”

David says when people see his panels or hear he went solar, they have plenty of questions-most often ‘Is it worth it?’

“If you can afford to do it, it’s worth it. It’s an investment in the future,” said Feicht.

The newest solar co-op is now open to membership through February for anyone in Cuyahoga County.

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