By FRED KRONER
Renovations almost always come with an associated cost.
Brian Romanowski, First Baptist pastor, believes the improvements completed at the church last week will come with an associated savings.
Thirty solar panels were installed on the south side of the building’s metal roof.
“There were significant costs, but there were renewal energy credits (available for non-profits),” Romanowski said. “We expect by this time next year, we will have paid for the system.”
Romanowski became a believer after listening to the success story of parishioner Bruce Swartz, who refurbished what had been his mother’s residence in rural Champaign.
“I think it’s a great deal,” Romanowski said. “I have so many mature trees (at home), it doesn’t make sense for me, but if shading is minimal, it is definitely worthwhile. We expect our utility bills to be minimal.”
The church budgets about $5,800 annually for utilities. Romanowski estimates that more than half of that goes for electric.
“Overall, we’ll produce about 90 percent of what we’ll consume,” he said.
Swartz investigated the solar option after learning he could not get natural gas in the 39-year-old home where he and his wife, Linda, now live.
“If we’re all electric, we wanted it to be as efficient and inexpensive as possible, Swartz said.
When he heard the sales presentation, he acknowledged that the projected savings seemed unbelievable.
“I tend to be a little skeptical,” Swartz said.
He did additional research before taking the plunge.
The family has no regrets.
“I haven’t bought any power for the last three months,” Swartz said. “Through eight months (of 2018), our total power bill is $970.”
Solar energy is used to heat and cool the home, but what families don’t use goes elsewhere.
“What we don’t need is put out on the grid, and Ameren buys it,” Swartz said. “I have an app on my phone that tells me how much the system is producing at any given moment.”
Romanowski can relate to Swartz’s doubts.
“When I looked at the numbers, I thought it was too good to be true,” he said.
At Swartz’s residence, more than enough power is produced during the summer to meet daily consumption. He expects the output to decline during the winter when there are fewer daylight hours.
“Everything depends on the sunlight you get,” he said.
Systems such as what Swartz had installed cost in excess of $20,000.
“It pays back over the long term,” Swartz said. “Most people hit the break-even point in the 10-to-12-year range.”
Equipment is guaranteed for 20 years and is produced to meet the needs of the consumer.
“Each installation is highly individualized,” Swartz said. “Everyone gets something geared for them. It’s not cooker-cutter equipment.
“I tell everybody, ‘don’t expect my results,.’ Any reputable company will tell you whether it makes sense for you.””
The installations done at First Baptist and the Swartz residence were the work of New Prairie Construction, in Urbana.
Solar power is only one of the options that qualify for the renewal energy credits. Wind power falls into the same category.
Romanowski considers the solar venture a win-win.
“God is good,” he said. “He provides us this resource to reduce our energy usage and be good stewards of what He gave us.”
For some, there is a downside to going solar.
Swartz has a comeback for those folks.
“People ask, ‘Do the panels on your roof bother you,’ “ he related. “I look at them now and all I see are dollars in my wallet.
“You’d be kind of silly to not at least check.”