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Blue Chip Solar and Wind News and Updates

From The Cincinnati Enquirer Sunday, October 7, 2007

Region not warmed up to solar - Experts think we're about to see a surge 

BY MICHAEL D. CLARK AND MIKE BOYER

WEST PRICE HILL - It took the immense power of the sun to finally move homeowner Jenny Gomien's electrical meter in a direction that thrilled her.

Last month - after two years of research - she and her husband, Chris, installed a $27,500 solar-electric system in their West Price Hill home.

Seconds after throwing the switch to activate the 16 solar panels on their roof, she saw her energy dreams come true: "The meter is running backward!"

On that sunny day, her modest home was actually generating enough power to feed electricity back into Duke Energy's power grid rather than drawing from it. "I don't believe it. This is great!" Gomien said.

The Gomiens are among a small but growing contingent of home and business owners in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky who are betting thousands of their own dollars on the future of solar energy. These people are taking themselves "off the grid" for various reasons. Some are reacting to rising energy prices and more affordable, more dependable technology hitting the market. Some are making their personal statements in support of "green" energy.

Ohio and Kentucky have lagged behind California and other Sun Belt states, where solar power is far more common. And for years, the Cincinnati area has been less interested in solar energy than the rest of Ohio - fewer than 1 percent of households here use solar energy, according to state reports.

But that's starting to change.

On Saturday, 12 homes and businesses - 10 of them new this year, including a house in Northern Kentucky - were featured in the fifth-annual Ohio Solar Tour.

That's still less extensive than northeastern Ohio, where a similar tour this weekend featured 44 solar-energy examples.

But it was double from last year's Greater Cincinnati tour of just six sites.

"We're at the point where solar is starting to take off in Ohio," says Bill Spratley, executive director of Green Energy Ohio, a statewide, nonprofit group promoting solar and other alternative energy that organized the statewide tours.

Solar energy is seeing "growing grassroots interest" across Ohio, Spratley says, as people become more aware of the technology and the availability of tax credits and state grants to help offset the high costs of getting started.

Information remains limited on exactly how many area residents are trying solar energy.

The Ohio Department of Development, which tracks home energy sources from coal to natural gas to fuel oil, reports that a few counties have more than 1 percent of households using solar-electric energy. Most of the state's 88 counties have far less than 1 percent drawing energy from the sun.

Kentucky energy officials say they don't track usage by county. They estimate that even fewer Kentucky residents are using solar energy than in Ohio.

Andrew Melnykovych, spokesman for Kentucky's Public Service Commission, says the statewide disinterest in solar reflects the commonwealth's ranking as having the lowest electrical rates in America.

There are, however, some signs of growing interest.

The National Solar Conference, held in Cleveland in July, drew 5,000 visitors. It was the first time the conference was ever held in Ohio.

The University of Cincinnati, known for its engineering programs, is among 20 schools competing in the International Solar Decathlon competition in Washington this month.

 

From Channel 9 News (click on TV to download clip)

 


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