Overcoming Solar Obstacles: Ray Stewart, Amherst, Ohio

Ray Stewart was the first resident in the City of Amherst to install solar after the city operated municipal utility installed bidirectional meters citywide.

What’s the story?

4 years ago, when the residents of Lorain County Ohio got together to organize a bulk purchasing deal for residential solar installations, Ray Stewart got excited. He was interested in getting solar for his home in Amherst, Ohio and attended the community meetings to get up to speed. A core group of individuals from the group evaluated and vetted different solar installers for the bulk purchasing program and ultimately chose Third Sun Solar.

Through the group buy program, Third Sun Solar Consultant, David Zelasko consulted with Ray. David asked Ray about his motivations for going solar, his goals and his available roof space for the solar array.  As David was going through routine processes, calling around to make sure solar was feasible for Ray and the proper permitting could be acquired, he discovered that the City of Amherst was not set up for solar. At that time the city was not allowing interconnection of solar PV systems into municipal power grid, which also means no net metering.

Some History

Because municipal utilities (and rural co-ops) are not regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, they are not required to offer net metering or allow interconnection for solar, though  many of them do. All the municipal utilities have their unique rules, so it’s important to have an installer like Third Sun who has experience with these utilities and takes the time to do their due diligence. The City of Amherst at the time operated a municipal utility that did not offer net metering. Oberlin, Cleveland Public Power and the City of Westerville are examples of municipalities who own the electric utility, do offer net metering, and where Third Sun has installed solar.

Next Steps

Ray lobbied his Mayor and Councilman, who were supportive of residential solar. Solar was something that the city knew they needed to prepare for. The Mayor responded that it would be necessary to update software and develop capacity in order to manage the change.

In 2019 the cities utilities department swapped all meters in their territory with bidirectional meters, meters that interact with residential solar systems and allow for net-metering.

Ray was able to install solar in June of 2019 and has been reaping the benefits of solar power ever since.

Going Solar

Since the instillation, Ray’s electric charges went down and have stayed down. He enjoys looking up at his roof and seeing the solar panels doing their work up there. He occasionally logs into his monitoring app to check on the data. Ray was lucky to have caught the 30% federal tax credit in it’s final year and is excited to get the tax credit when he files this year. (the federal tax credit has stepped down to 26% in 2020 – read more about the federal tax credit for solar here).

Motivation and Legacy

When asked what motivated him to get a solar system for his home, he says his motivation is to lower his carbon footprint.

Ray is a gardener, a composter, a recycler and a hybrid vehicle owner. When solar became possible for him, it was the natural choice. Ray is aligned with Third Sun Solar in his mission; he feels that, in the face of climate change anything we can each do to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and lower our carbon footprint is important.

As a former science teacher, Ray had his students read Aldo Leapold’s 1949 essay collection A Sand County Almanac. The essays convey the concept of “land ethic” and the ethical relationship that exists between people and the land where they live.

The signature line in his email reads:

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

― Aldo Leopold

Community members within the City of Amherst now each have the opportunity to lower their own carbon footprint. A case could be made that through Ray’s efforts, the community in which he lives will be treated with a little more love and respect as the community members can now make the choice to power their homes and lives with clean, healthy, renewable energy.

 

  • Will Solar Work For My Home?