August 2015: Solar Made Sense to Energy Savvy Agribusiness
Larry Rhodes had a very practical reason for choosing solar energy to supplement the electrical usage at his farm in Central Illinois. “Solar proved to be a good investment from a business standpoint and I realized that it would positively impact my neighbors as well.” Larry’s solar journey began through conversations with his son abut wind energy, which has become so prevalent in the rural landscape across Central Illinois. “When I looked into it, solar gave the best bang for my buck, even compared to wind.” This August, Mr. Rhodes received a 9.76 installation provided by StraightUp Solar which will allow him to save over $50,000 in electric utility costs over the expected 25-year life of the system. The solar electricity produced by the system will effectively offset more than 132 Tons of coal, the environmental equivalent of planting 6,338 trees.
Mr. Rhodes, like many other business owners, has realized the importance of understanding his energy usage and finding ways to conserve. He was able to get a good handle on his energy usage by taking advantage of an energy audit program offered by his his electric provider, MJM Electric Cooperative. He received an energy audit for his home and business last year, in addition to a historical analysis of his energy usage going back several years to help him stay informed of his consumption trends. As Larry’s interest in his electric usage grew, he sought advice from a representative of MJM as to how he might take advantage of current technology to increase his energy efficiency and reduce utility costs. With insight into the electric power industry, they suggested he consider solar energy and see if it penciled out. In many respects, Mr. Rhodes considers MJM Electric Coop to be an extremely customer-oriented organization, always engaging with their members and known to offer trustworthy advice.
When Mr. Rhodes began his research on renewable energy, he found solar energy was readily available in his area through several local providers. Mr. Rhodes gave StraightUp Solar a call after he spoke to several stakeholders in the Gillespie Unit School District, who chose to install a 63.96 kilowatt (KW) array at Benld Elementary in 2013 in order to save the school district money and who gave excellent reviews. He called in to our offices to see how and why he might use solar energy for his farming operation. After evaluating the financials of a solar project for his farm, Larry Rhodes concluded that solar made sense for him from a business perspective, and that with the federal tax credit and valuable Illinois State Solar Renewable Energy Credits in effect now was the time to build. As solar PV becomes more affordable for many homes and businesses, Mr. Rhodes would add that it is advisable to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a new installation as often as possible.