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Generating Your Own Power

Q: What would I need to do to hook up an alternative power source on my property? I don't want to go "off grid," I just want to offset some of my power use. What would my cost be to set up a metering point? If I produce more energy than I use will the meter run "backward"? If I net more production than use will REMC buy the power from me?

A: A quick answer is, you only need a metering point from us. Your AMR meter when you get it (if you don't already have it) will be the metering point. But it's not so much what we require as what will be required from you to make the interconnect from your alternative energy system. This will be part of that system's cost. All the other equipment necessary for you to produce electricity from an alternative power source would be part of the system and equipment you choose.

A longer term look at the opportunity for you to produce electricity from either solar or wind reveals that it will become more practical over the next few years. But today, it is expensive. The power created by the sun or wind is free but the equipment necessary to capture it is expensive. I just read that a new technology has been developed that has the potential to reduce the cost of a new generation of photovoltaic cells by about half. This will be a big deal if this new development pans out.

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, presently, it costs about $25,000 to install a photovoltaic system large enough to produce three kw of electric power, which is not a lot of power and could only run your refrigerator. In Indiana, there are currently no rebates available to a homeowner to help offset that cost. In New Jersey, a homeowner would get 70 percent of that cost back and in California, it would be 50 percent. So Hoosiers would have to pay the whole cost of a system. The amount of electricity that a solar system would likely produce over the 20-year life-span of the equipment would cost you 25 cents per kwh. (Divide the $25,000 equipment cost by the kwh it can produce in 20 years and you come up with the 25 cents per kwh figure.) Harrison REMC's average electric price is about nine cents per kwh or less.

The decision to invest in solar today will not result in a savings to a homeowner as long as you can buy electricity for eleven cents compared to solar's cost of 25 cents. In the future, when electric rates are higher and solar is less expensive to install, or Indiana adopts a rebate program, there will likely be a day when a homeowner can save money using alternative energy. States here in the Midwest have low electric rates compared to those on the west and east coasts which start at 15 cents per kwh and go up as you use more electricity. Those states are beginning to experiment with alternative energies but even there, it has not caught on in a big way.


Selling power back

To answer your question about selling power back, REMC's AMR meter do have the ability to determine if your system is producing electrical energy and sending it back onto our wires or if you are consuming electrical energy from our system.


Looking to the future

The day is coming when alternative energy sources will be a practical investment. It could be soon, but more likely, it will be quite awhile. I don't know when to tell you to make the decision to choose an alternative system, but we at Harrison REMC will stay on top of the latest developments. I really feel these types of systems will one day be a part of Indiana homeowners' efforts to keep electric costs down and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we introduce into the atmosphere. But today, they are tough to justify economically. Please feel free to contact us at any time to get the latest information on alternative energies.

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