Luke Sulfridge

Luke Sulfridge of Solar United Neighbors was the guest speaker for the informational seminar on solar that occurred March 1 in the Perry County Public Library. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth hosted the seminar.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Solar United Neighbors held an informational seminar March 1 in the Perry County Public Library to educate the community on solar energy, the benefits of joining a co-op and incentives of going solar.

Viper resident Pamela Brashear said she organized the event so residents of Perry County and surrounding counties know there are other options available to power their homes or businesses.

“Folks are tired of paying too much for electricity,” Brashear said. 

Eastern Kentucky native Luke Sulfridge, of Solar United Neighbors, was the guest speaker. Sulfridge was a graduate of Berea College and Eastern Kentucky University. 

Solar United Neighbors started 15 years ago in Washington, D.C. Since then, the nonprofit organization has expanded to nine states and has helped approximately 3,600 homes and businesses go solar, Sulfridge said. This will be the group’s first co-op in Kentucky.

“I’m very excited to help Kentucky get its first co-op going,” Sulfridge said. 

One family from Breathitt County said solar provides a third of their electricity. In the summer of 2017, the family said they did not owe on their electric bill for three months.

Sulfridge explained that net metering is when a homeowner produces more energy than they use and that the energy is added to the utility’s grid. The utility company, which is Kentucky Power in this area, will give credit to the homeowner. 

Sulfridge said the prices of solar panels have dropped 80 percent in the last five years, making the panels affordable to most families. 

“In a lot of cases, homeowners can utilize the same money they are already using to pay their electric bills to finance the panels,” Sulfridge said. 

By joining a co-op, Sulfridge said, homeowners can collectively bid for the installation of solar panels and other equipment while ensuring quality installation. Sulfridge said Solar United Neighbors helps homeowners through each step of the process.

Additionally, businesses will receive federal tax credits for going solar. 

Whayne Supply in Hazard is a local solar panel installer. Sulfridge said some co-op groups ask for local installers because supporting local business is important to them. 

Typically, tier 1 solar panels have a 25-year warranty regardless of product name, Sulfridge said. 

“Panels can withstand golfball sized hail at 100 mph,” Sulfridge said. 

Sulfridge said that, on average, the solar system will almost pay for itself within 10 years. In 20 years, Sulfridge said, homeowners will make back on average approximately $7,400.

A benefit of living in Eastern Kentucky, Sulfridge said, is that homeowners do not have to clean their solar panels because the rain and snow will wash off the dust and dirt.

Organizers of the informational seminar said they are worried about possible legislation in Kentucky that would reduce by half the amount of produced energy homeowners are reimbursed for. 

While House Bill 227 is being presented as a pro-solar bill, organizers said it specially targets solar.

According to organizers, House Rep. Chris Fugate voted “Yes” when the proposed legislation came up on the floor. 

Last year, organizers said, there were only three net-metering customers in AEP’s 20 county service area. This year, organizers said there are 17 customers.

For more information on the co-op, visit, www.solarunitedneighbors.org/EKY.

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