Solarize Cincinnati: Solar power brings return on investment

CINCINNATI (Scott Dimmich) -- Most people look for ways to save on utility bills, especially those winter heating bills.

There's a push to get local homes and businesses to embrace solar power. But does Cincinnati weather get in the away of this initiative?

After installing solar panels on her home, Julie Jones of Wyoming found misconceptions about clouds, rain, and snow limiting her return on her investment were not true.

"If it's a little overcast, I'm still producing power with the solar panels. If there's a dusting of snow on the panels and lights still getting through, I'll still be making power through the panels," said Jones.

With those doubts gone, she's now a part of a plan called Solarize Cincinnati, encouraging people to add solar power now while solar costs continue dropping and a federal tax credit lasts. It expires at the end of 2016, so people are trying to get out the word to let others take advantage of the credit.

Those involved with the initiative know that the installation of solar paneling on homes can be a big commitment. Thankfully, OKI has developed a tool which allows people to see the environmental and the economical benefits to solar paneling on their home specifically.

Chris Meyer with Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance said, "The OKI map, they have done this great solar irradiance map. By using lidar, that's laser range finding, generated basically a 3D map of people's roof tops."

It provides people with a ton of data including how much money a rooftop would save by going to solar versus using electricity. It also tells people how many pounds of carbon dioxide would be saved if people went to solar energy as opposed to using electricity. EPA regulations on carbon pollution may increase utility prices in the coming years, but Jones is happy her solar panels mean a smaller carbon footprint and more money in her pocket.

"The sun is just there, it's something we should be using for power. In the long run, it's going to cost me less than it will cost buying it from the utility, I don't see why people don't," said Jones.

Depending on weather and energy prices solar panels can pay for themselves in roughly 10 to 13 years.

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