Ken Clifton, a computer-technology instructor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Cabarrus County, N.C., powers about 80 percent of his home with solar energy. Three months ago Clifton installed his first solar array at his home, and he says the results have been phenomenal. “It works so well I decided to install another one,” he says. Now, Clifton’s home has two solar arrays each made up for 12 photovoltaic panels and 12 micro-inverters, which convert direct current into the alternating current used in homes. The solar panels have shaved about $60 a month off his utility bill, and he anticipates that figure doubling during the summer months. Meanwhile, since 2007, Clifton has been heating his home with a biomass furnace that burns corn kernels, saving him about $2,400 each winter. The furnace cost about $3,200 at the time, and Clifton says it has been worth the cash. “It is 100 percent paid back,” he says. “And we are still using it.” Clifton also installed thermal collectors on his roof last July to heat his water supply, which saves about $30 a month. The tubes in the solar collectors and the solar water tank for it cost about $7,000, but 65 percent — $4,550 — was recovered through state and federal tax credits. “For somebody just starting out this is very cost effective,” he notes. Clifton says in comparison a new energy saving heat pump water tank would cost about $1,500. Before installing his own photovoltaic system, Clifton had to receive approval from Duke Energy, the local utility. Clifton chose a net metering system that provides energy for his home and any excess energy is delivered to the grid, where it can the power generated by a home system can be used to offset the monthly bill. | Read More