Elkhart launches initiative to educate home, business owners on solar energy
ELKHART, Ind. – The Elkhart Environmental Center, in partnership with Solarize Northern Indiana, invites people to participate in the first of several informational workshops on Thursday.
Organizers say the initiative is mean to help home and business owners remove the complexities and confusing aspects of the energy source.
Through a series of meetings, speakers from various organizations will educate people on the cost of solar panels, introduce them to installers, and debunk common misconceptions.
“Education is power,” said Elkhart Environmental Center Director Jamison Czarnecki. “There’s nothing wrong with understanding something and learning more.”
Czarnecki lists the high initial cost and the misconception that solar panels don’t work in colder climates as reasons that deter people from investing in solar energy.
For the a home that uses six to nine kilowatts, the average cost of a solar panel system after tax credits is costs $12,000-22,000.
Czarnecki explains the average return of investment for solar panels lies between 9-12 years, but panels can still produce energy for up to 15 years after that.
The average lifespan of a solar panel is estimated to be 25-30 years.
Czarnecki adds panels do work in Elkhart’s cooler climate. He explains Germany, with a climate similar to Seattle, Wash., is the top solar energy producer in the world.
“For homeowners, it’s… a freedom from your electricity bill after a long time or after a number of years,” said Czarnecki. “For society at large, the long term benefits [are] that we have a more stable energy portfolio and that we have a cleaner power grid which helps with air pollution and a number of other things.”
Elkhart’s solar initiative is modeled after similar projects launched in Goshen and South Bend in 2017.
Between the two cities, 97 solar projects were installed over an eight month period.
“There’s a lot of benefits for a city, municipality, and community at large going into more solar installations,” said Czarnecki. “The biggest is that it’s a transition into a clean environment, cleaner energy grid for the environment. We know that there’s less air pollution.”
Goshen homeowner Dan Koop Liechty and his wife attended one of the educational sessions put on when Goshen started its solar energy initiative.
“We were interested in solar panels but kind of really scared about to start, to think about it,” said Koop Liechty.
He ended up installing 18 panels on his home’s roof.
“There’s times where we think, ‘Oh let’s use less electricity,’” said Koop Liechty. “Maybe we’ll hang our clothes up instead of using our dryer and so I think we’re more aware of our electrical use as well. I think there’s another benefit to it as well that you’re much more aware of what you’re using instead of being passive and getting that bill each month and paying it off.”
Koop Liechty believes his home’s panels will be paid off within the next eight years. He estimates his family will likely enjoy at least 15 years of no electricity bills or solar panel payments.
“We believe that there’s some real issues and if there’s things that we can do to be helpful with that, recycling, composting, using less energy, reusing things, reducing our usage of things, that’s something we want to do,” said Koop Liechty. “The solar panels were a really pretty big, tangible way that we could do something good.”
Thursday's meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. It's being held at the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.
Another meeting will be held August 1 at the Elkhart Environmental Center at 6:30 p.m.
Additional meetings will be announced at a later time. Anyone who cannot attend but is interested in learning more about solar energy can click here.