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Solar energy's future in Columbus was up for discussion during a May 30 presentation to the community by the Nebraska Conservation Educational Fund.

The session was led by NCEF’s northeast director, Jamison Willis, and its conservation director, Nic Nealy, in hopes to promote solar energy in the community. This is the first time the presentation was held in Columbus.

“Our goal with solar is to introduce more alternate options for renewable energy,” Nealy said during the presentation, which was made at the public library.

At the beginning of the presentation, attendees shared their thoughts on solar energy and how it was being implemented in different communities, such as Fremont.

Willis spoke about the different solar energy programs for individuals who are interested in starting up solar projects on their homes, from nonprofit-led to installed-led to a combination of the two. NCEF was an example of a combined service with resources available to assist individuals.

When there are more solar projects in the community, it increases community interest, Willis said.

An attendee voiced out his experience seeing solar panels more utilized in agriculture and small businesses as compared to residential areas, adding that it is still too expensive for regular residents to purchase.

This is when Willis highlighted the benefits homeowners can receive by investing in solar energy. He said it can reduce the cost of energy in the long run, as well as increase one’s knowledge of renewable energy.

Willis recommended community members purchase solar panels in groups to reduce cost. The estimated price for 3-kilowatts systems cost $10,000 per household, however, when they are bought in bulk, the price drops to approximately $4,500 per household.

Attendees learned the different steps to install solar panels for their homes, starting with an electric meter that regulates power.

Willis said these meters can drive down wiring cost and reduce the need for electrical service panel upgrades on older homes.

The next step individuals should take is to install an inverter for self-consumption. Energy will be stored during the day to be used during the evenings.

Business owners can also benefit from investing in solar energy. They can recover the cost through annual depreciation deductibles.

Willis said ideal roofs for solar panels installation are those facing either south, southeast, southwest or west. On top of that, the roofs need to have sufficient space for the panels, as well as good exposure to sunlight.

There are different ways to check online the amount of solar energy each home collects daily, such as Google’s Project Sunroof. GPS is a solar power initiative started by Google that allows users to check whether installing solar panels could cut their energy bill.

Aside from installing solar panels on roofs, Willis provided alternative installation sites to the attendees. Individuals can opt to place their panels on their garages, mound them to the ground or on poles.

At the end of the presentation, all the attendees showed their interests in learning more about solar installations by signing up for more sessions.

“We are thinking about (hosting) more regular meetings about specifically solar energy and, maybe, renewable energy, as well,” Nealy said.

These upcoming sessions will dive into more details about the different aspects of solar energy such as taxes, financing and the science behind this renewable energy.

“We work in various communities to eventually finding solutions with the community in different conservation issues,” Nealy said.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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