Here comes the sun

OurSolar — coming soon to a co-op near you.
OurSolar — coming soon to a co-op near you.

While many people endorse the benefits of solar power, the idea of their actually installing and maintaining a costly rooftop grid might never see the light of day.

Through a community solar program called OurSolar, members of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives will soon be able to plug into the sun without the drawbacks of doing it themselves. As part of OurSolar, Buckeye Power is beginning to build new solar panel arrays at several locations around the state, bringing more emission-free energy to Ohio’s electric cooperatives.

“We know that we have lots of members who would like renewables to play a larger role in their energy supply,” says Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives Marketing Director Janet Rehberg. “This will give members the most affordable option.”

While Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives remains committed to traditional sources of power, such as coal and natural gas, the company continually seeks innovative ways to ensure a balanced approach toward energy production and generation.

“Our power portfolio reflects a growing interest in renewable energy sources,” says Ben Wilson, manager of power delivery engineering for Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives. “In addition to solar, sources include wind, hydropower, and biomass fuels.”

With a total capacity of 2.1 megawatts, the OurSolar project will become part of the diverse energy resources provided by Ohio’s electric cooperatives. Individual installations will range from 25 kilowatts to 600 kilowatts. A typical rooftop array is from 5 to 10 kilowatts.

Wilson says, “Systems will be installed at various locations across the state that offer a nice, open spot, without requiring much land; have sight to the sun; and are close to electrical facilities, so that they can be connected to the electric grid and deliver power to it.”

Wilson says that the expected cost of installation will be lower per watt than that of the typical rooftop project, averaging about half as much.

OurSolar also eliminates the drawbacks that come with installing solar panels on one’s home, such as aesthetics; high costs of installation and maintenance; and physical constraints such as trees and chimneys blocking the panels.

The first community solar system project will be in Delaware, Ohio. The entire project is expected to take a year to roll out across Ohio.