Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Owner: David Butler, GREATMATS.COM
Location: 117 Industrial Ave., Milltown, WI 54858
Email: info [at] greatmats.com
Contractor: Kris Schmid, Legacy Solar, Frederic, WI
GREATMATS.COM sells custom floor coverings for industrial, athletic, commercial and residential applications from its warehouse in Milltown's industrial park. In the fall of 2007, owner David Butler contracted with Kris Schmid to install two photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays along the south side of his property. A year later he added a second pair, easily making this the largest PV installation currently existing in Polk County.
The installed cost of the complete system came to about $118,000, of which 25% was returned as a cash grant from Focus on Energy. Federal business tax credits reduced the price by another 25%, and an accelerated depreciation schedule made the project even more affordable.
Owner David Butler (blue shirt at left) talks about his system with a tour group. With an output rating of 11 kW, his four PV units provide 135% of his business's annual electrical needs; the excess is sold back to Northwestern Electric under a program called net metering--basically the meter runs backward when he's producing more power than he's consuming. His first check from the power company is in a frame on Butler's office wall.
These PV arrays are equipped with gears and motors that allow the panels to remain oriented toward the sun throughout the day and across the seasons. Called a dual axis tracking system, this feature significantly boosts power output.
Butler tells visitors that he didn't invest in his solar panels for the payback, which he calculates at about 11 years at current electricity prices (and figuring in the various incentives). "If you believe, like I do, that we need to move away from coal and nuclear power for the good of the planet, then I think we each have a responsibility to help make that change happen in whatever way we can," says Butler.
Installer Kris Schmid of Legacy Solar explains the controls and monitoring devices.