The roof at Butch’s Lube ‘N Wash. (Photo courtesy of Garden State Solar; click to enlarge)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
It wasn’t long after Paul Stout snapped on the lights at his Rumson business for the first time using solar power that he realized he’d made the right move installing the 48 panels on his roof.
“The first day it was turned on, I saw savings,” said the owner of Butler’s Deli. “It’s immediate.”
Three years, thousands of dollars and 55,000 pounds of unused carbon later, Stout scoffs at the notion that installing solar panels is too expensive or labor intensive.
“It’s the greatest thing in the world,” he said, watching his electric meter dial backwards as the system fed electricity back into the power grid one recent sunny afternoon. “I’m happy with it.”
Stout may have racked up years of savings in the pocket and reduced his carbon input drastically, but others in the area are just discovering the advantages solar energy can bring.
In November, Butch’s Lube ‘N Wash, on Newman Springs Road in Red Bank, started drawing power from 180 solar panels. Although it was “a significant investment,” said manager Brock Siebert, a number of state and federal grants and energy credits from the power company, in which unused power is bought back by the power company, made the decision to go solar that much easier.
“And the possibility of the cost of electricity going up in the future will only make the move more valuable as time goes on,” Siebert said.
The panels power about one-third of the car wash’s electrical system and has already reduced the power bill by about 30 percent, he said. The initial outlay of cash for the panels will pay off in four to six years, he said.
Rising energy costs, not to mention the environmental benefits, surely play a part in the local push to add another power source, said Pastor Ty Choate, of First Baptist Church in Red Bank.
The church just went live with panels that cover the southern roof and are expected to power the entire church.
“Energy prices are not going down,” Choate said. “There’s no coincidence that you see wide community of people doing it.”
Choate said he’s gotten phone calls from area churches asking how the First Baptist went about getting the panels, how well they work and for advice. First Baptist did its own research and prodding of other churches and businesses that put panels up before shelling out at least $175,000 to get its own installed, he said.
“We’ve been very happy,” he said. “Everyone we’ve talked to who’s had them one year, two years, three years, we haven’t run across a person who has said they wouldn’t do it again.”
The advantages are clear, he said: you can save money, save energy and, in the long run, help the environment.
Middletown is in the middle of negotiations with a solar company to undergo a broad solar initiative that will include 22 buildings in town, including schools and the library.
Choate says if a municipality, homeowner, business or church has the means to go for it, then it’s the right investment for the future.
“The one big plus to doing it is it’s just going to help the area and the community,” he said. “And if it saves some money, well that’s great, too.”