At Daryl and Cindy Guentzel’s place, they have two solar panels that power the farm, which includes their home, grain dryer fans and welding shop where son Mike Guentzel operates Guentzel Trucking.
“We don’t pay anything for electricity anymore. We get money back at the end of the year,” Mike Guentzel said.
The Guentzels started with a 20-kilowatt solar panel on a ground-mount system three years ago to see how it worked. A year later, they built a shed with the optimal 7-12 foot pitch and installed a second 20 kW solar panel. The ground-mount system also sits at that optimal tilt year-round.
Guentzel reasons that because farmers are already using the sun to grow their crops, why not use the sun to power the farm.
Solar systems over 40 kW are paid back for generated energy by the power company at wholesale prices, explained Guentzel. So 40kW systems are operated at 39.9 kW to receive a net meter rate.
That means your local power company pays you for energy generated at the going retail rate. Guentzel used the example of a 13-cent net meter rate compared to a 3-cent wholesale rate.
The Guentzels’ ground-mounted solar panel cost about $90,000 and the panel on the shed was about $80,000. The company that installed both systems was ecojiva.
To make the system affordable, ecojiva paid the Guentzels $30,000 for solar credits for the shed unit and $45,000 for solar credits for the ground unit. Essentially, the money worked like a company rebate for the Guentzels.
A rebate from Xcel Energy was available, but the process was too slow, Guentzel said.
For a fee, ecojiva offers a grant writer to help customers get the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Energy for America Program grant, which covers up to 25 percent of the project cost.
“It helps get the solar power into the hands of everyday Americans,” Guentzel said.
While the Guentzels didn’t qualify for the REAP grant, they did receive a federal tax credit and depreciation benefit.
When solar credits, tax credit and energy savings are totaled, Guentzel estimated the payback on the first panel was about one year and the second panel 2 to 2 1/2 years.
“Vet the company. There are big differences out there,” he said. “If they can’t help you get tax incentives and rebates, you’ll end up with a very expensive system.”
The solar panels at the Guentzel farm have a 25-year warranty stating that the panels must work 80 percent as well in year 25 as they did in the first year. All panels will have some degradation, Guentzel said.
One reason he’s sold on solar power is because it is maintenance free. “The nice thing about solar is you put it up and you’re done.”
In addition to operating Guentzel Trucking in Madison Lake, Mike Guentzel is a solar installer for ecojiva.
Renewable Energy for Greater Minnesota
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Fritz Ebinger at (612) 626-1028