Seymour couple has solar panels installed on home

The way Sandy and Clifton Foster see it, switching to solar energy is the only way to go.

They want to be trendsetters in Seymour.

The couple recently had eight solar panels installed on their house on West Brown Street and soon will be reaping the benefits of renewable energy.

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Powerhome Solar, an Indianapolis-based company, installed the system on their two-story home built in 1905.

Sandy said the panels will save them 40% on their electricity on average, which means a potential savings of about $70 per month on their electric bill.

The Fosters said the total cost for the panels will be $13,000, and that they are paying $73 per month for them. They said that they will get a solar tax credit which will deduct 30% of the cost of installing the solar energy system from their federal taxes.

Solar panels capture energy from the sun and convert them to electricity. The panels convert sunlight into direct-current electricity that flows into an inverter, which then converts it to an alternating current for home use.

The home then uses the electric as needed. Additional power generated from the panels gets pushed back into the utility grid for a credit on the Fosters’ electric bill.

“Duke (Energy) comes in and installs a meter, which connects our meter to their grid,” Clifton said. “Duke then looks at how much energy we are sending and calculates what their bill will be.”

The Fosters have the ability to see how the panels are working with an app and can track the amount of energy they’re bringing in on a daily basis.

The expected life on the panels the Fosters bought are 40-plus years, but they have a 25-year warranty. Most expected repairs would be covered, and if an act of God were to damage the panels, it would be covered by homeowners insurance.

The couple believes they are the first home to go solar in the city and would like to see local government follow suit.

Their idea isn’t so far-fetched, as the city is looking into the possibility of using solar energy to power government buildings and streetlights.

Over the past two years, the city has been approached by officials with companies about bidding on a project proposed to convert some of the city’s departments from electric to solar.

If a plan is approved by the city council in the future, the project would include installing solar panels to generate enough electricity to power the city’s department of public works offices and garages at Freeman Field, the wastewater treatment plant on the city’s far west side and city hall at 301-309 N. Chestnut St.

The total savings of solar energy after 25 years would be about $4.8 million. An analysis from Johnson-Melloh Solutions showed the city currently pays $679,720 for its energy needs annually, which is 27 percent of its yearly budget.

The technology also would allow the city to use solar power for the 1,400 streetlights it currently rents from Duke Energy.

Freeman Municipal Airport could be a location for solar technology that would help power the airport and Department of Public Works and also allow industries such as Valeo, Lannett, RR Donnelley, the Ruler Foods warehouse and others to tap into the renewable energy source.

By switching to solar, in 18 to 20 years, the city would no longer pay an electric bill for the solar sites, Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman said in 2018.

The process would be similar to what North Vernon has done with Johnson-Melloh over the past few years to become the first city government in Indiana to be completely powered by solar energy. That project was the result of the success of the Jennings County Public Library switching to solar energy.

The Fosters said they want to show people they can make the switch.

“We really want to prove that people can go solar and that it’s not that hard,” Clifton said. “Sometimes, you’ll have to jump through hurdles.”

According to Solar Energy Industries Association, there are 352.2 mega watts of solar installed in the state, enough solar to power 42,000 homes. There are 3,114 solar jobs and 101 companies.

Over the last five years, the price of going solar has declined 34%, and $537.8 million of solar investments have been made in the state, including $76 million last year.