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Solar Challenge issued to Northeast Ohio

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/14/07 @ 5:58pm

Northeast Ohio has been issued a challenge: Install it and they will come.

'It' in this case is a total of 1 megawatt of solar power on homes and businesses and 'they' are state and local governments coming up with incentives and maybe a solar panel manufacturer to build a plant in Northeast Ohio.

Incentives are especially crucial to kick-starting the renewable energy economy here, Green Energy Ohio (GEO) Executive Director Bill Spratley told a crowd at last night's E4S Solar Challenge/networking meeting at Great Lakes Brewing Co.

"This will be a solar city," Spratley promised.

GEO, E4S and the Cleveland Foundation's new BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancements, Richard Stuebi, issued the Solar Challenge with the goal of boosting solar PV, solar thermal and passive solar installations in the seven-county area by July 2007, when Cleveland will host a national solar conference.

"An installer at Spire Solar said if we can guarantee 1 megawatt of solar, we will guarantee you a plant (to manufacture solar panels)," Spratley said.

At the same time, First Solar LLC, which manufactures semi-conductor solar panels for the industrial and commercial market, recently announced it will triple its capacity from 25MW to 75MW per year at its Perrysburg, Ohio (near Toledo) plant. In addition, the company plans to add another production facility in Germany.

Why Germany? "Because the Germans have lots of incentives," Spratley said.

Ohio has invested in renewables as well. The Toledo Blade reports that the Perrysburg plant received $80 million in government grants and at least $60 million in private investment.

Other examples of local and state incentives for residential applications include a $100 million bond issue for solar panels on homes in San Francisco. Closer to home, Pennsylvania is a leader in offering incentives to homeowners and businesses that want to install solar panels.

"And we have more solar generating potential in Ohio (than Pennsylvania)," Spratley said. "We can do this here. We make things. We just have to mobilize the market place."

One megawatt of solar panels would cover 1 ½ football fields or two acres, explained local, certified solar PV installer Erika Weliczko. It would generate enough electricity for 120 to 320 households. It costs about $10/watt installed. "We have a long way to go," she said. "We need some big commercial applications to make this a solar city."

Recent commercial solar applications include:

  • A 3.36 kW solar awning on the Doty and Miller office in Bedford
  • The Cleveland Environmental Center has a 4.1 kW solar array on the roof
  • Lake Farmpark in Kirtland installed a 26 kW solar array (right next to a 20 kW wind turbine)
  • Adam Lewis Science Center at Oberlin College mounted a 100 kW photovoltaic system (the largest in the state) as the roof over a parking lot in April 2006
  • Ruffing Montessori school in Cleveland Heights secured funding for a 5 kW solar array.

Homes and schools with solar panels number in the dozens in Northeast Ohio. The challenge will also count solar thermal (heating water through solar) and passive solar designs, such as the recently built maintenance shed at Crown Pointe Ecology Center in Bath.

For more information, contact Entrepreneurs for SustainabilityGreen Energy Ohio, or Richard Stuebi at 216-861-3810.

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