Castle Valley Creamery receives RMP subsidy for solar installation
by Charli Engelhorn
contributing writer
Sep 06, 2012 | 1376 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New solar panels are being installed at Castle Valley Creamery in Castle Valley. The solar project is funded in part by a rebate from Rocky Mountain Power. Photo by Charli Engelhorn
New solar panels are being installed at Castle Valley Creamery in Castle Valley. The solar project is funded in part by a rebate from Rocky Mountain Power. Photo by Charli Engelhorn
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A rebate of $23,000 from Rocky Mountain Power recently enabled Castle Valley Creamery to install a solar power array at the business. According to Erik Secrist, owner of the local goat farm and cheese manufacturer, the business had wanted to install solar power for many years, so he applied for the rebate, which was awarded through a lottery system, and got lucky.

“I was shocked when we got the rebate... We’ve always wanted to be able to use solar electricity. We use a fair amount to run the farm,” Secrist said. “It seemed like a cleaner and better option. There’s a lot of sun in Moab. This is working out well for us.”

Kevin Hansen, owner of American Solar Power, has been working since the beginning of August to install the 60 solar panels at the farm. According to Hansen, 20 people applied for the rebate, and six were granted a dollar amount equivalent to the estimated amount of power they would produce.

The creamery’s panels will produce 16,000 watts of power at $1.50 per watt. After receiving the rebate, Hansen and Secrist had one year to complete the project, which they believe will be finished this fall.

The power created by the panels will be transmitted into a converter that will convert the solar DC power to 240 volt AC power to be sent to the property.

“We will use this electricity to power our pump, cheesemaking equipment, lighting, and the house. We’ll have solar powered goat cheese,” Secrist said.

This particular solar installation is different from other systems because the power is tied into the public grid, said Hansen. When the farm is producing excess power, it will be sent back to the grid for public use. Any power that goes back into the grid earns the farm a credit from Rocky Mountain Power. Hansen said the technology is new for this system, as well.

“This is a new inverter system... an optimizer system. Erik can log on the internet from any computer and see what the panels are doing and producing,” Hansen said. “You can see if any panel is damaged or has debris on it. It’s pretty high tech.”

The panels themselves were built high off the ground to avoid the goats jumping onto them, something that would be a possibility, given the nature of goats, according to Secrist. Although the initial investment to put this system together is fairly high, Secrist said it is worth it.

“It’s an investment up front, but in the long run, it will save money and we get to produce clean energy,” said Secrist. “We knew we wanted to do solar power and knew we were going to use the rebate for that... it has helped cover some of the costs, and we are hoping to have enough electricity to run the whole place.”

With the current rate of electricity, Hansen believes it will only take seven to eight years to pay off the investment. After that, electricity at the farm would be free.

Part of the reason the costs are so low for the system is due to a group Hansen created at the beginning of 2012 called Grand Solar Coop. This group is composed of local residents interested in doing a solar project so they can purchase the panels in bulk straight from the manufacturer and skip the middle retailer.

There are 400 to 500 panels in a truckload, and Hansen has used almost 300 of those already doing 20 installations in the Moab area because of the group.

“We got a good deal on the panels. We save almost $10,000 on 250 panels. As a percentage, we are saving about 15 to 20 percent on the cost of these panels,” Hansen said.

Hansen is looking to start another group and get another truckload of panels. His next project is a large installation in Blanding, Utah.

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