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Solar energy being utilized by area homeowners

Ray Senk, of rural Osage, had a 2kV solar system installed by West Central Telephone Association through the Zenergy program in 2010. He is already seeing energy savings on his electric bill from Itasca-Mantrap Electric Cooperative.1 / 2
During the middle of a sunny day the meter spins quickly, showing a large a amount of energy being utilized.2 / 2

Solar energy usage has been increasing in the Park Rapids area due in part to rebates and local contractors.

Energy from the sun is clean and free and virtually unlimited but needs photovoltaic technology in order to become electricity.

West Central Telephone Association, of Sebeka and Menahga, has been installing solar throughout the area.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are made of silicon cells, which when hit with light ("photo-") release electrons ("-voltaic"). The released energy from each of the cells is collected and delivered as direct current (DC) voltage. The DC voltage can then be used to power DC devices, stored in batteries, or converted to alternating current (AC) voltage using a device called an inverter.

Once converted, AC voltage can be used for household power (like the conventional AC power from your wall outlet). On a system that is "grid-tied" (connected to the utility company's power grid), surplus AC voltage can be "sent back" to the utility grid for credit on the monthly bill.

Rank Senk, of rural Osage, had a 2 kV solar system installed in 2010.

"The rebates that were available really made this possible," he said.

Senk paid about a third of the total cost of about $15,000. And he is already seeing savings on his monthly electricity bills from Itasca-Mantrap Electric Cooperative.

"It's just amazing to be able to use our natural resources to get power," he said.

Eventually, he would like to add some wind energy to his property and also add on to his current solar system.

"I've got one of the tallest poles available," he said. "Because of the trees around it needed to be in a position to get the most sunlight it can."

The solar panels are roughly 60 square feet ad he generates enough power to nearly pay all his electric bill each month.

"There's just so much potential for those who want to invest in renewable energy," he said.

For people in their 20s it would be an excellent way to invest money, Senk said.

"The savings over time, in dollars and to the earth, are incredible," he said. "Who knows what the price for electricity will be in 20 years?"

Senk also has a strong dislike of coal. He thinks that renewable energy should be on the forefront of everyone's mind.

Each panel is pitched at a 45-degree angle, facing south for maximum sunlight potential.

One of the features of the Zenergy system is the logistics software that tracks total energy production and consumption. Zenergy's meter can deliver real-time results through a computer program that will give home and business owners instant feedback on just how much energy they are using.

West Central Telephone Association uses first-hand research, testing and experience. The Zenergy process includes thorough analysis and consultation, much of it based on primary research.

All installations are overseen by a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners certified installer.

The process includes:

• Site assessment of property and structures

• System design and configuration

• Energy production and cost/savings projections

• Installation options

• Future maintenance and monitoring

State rebate funds for solar electric systems have all been used, however, applications are still accepted from Minnesota homeowners to install qualifying solar hot water and air heat systems. Reservations are available on a first-come, first-served basis for solar systems installed at an applicant's primary residence by a licensed contractor who meets program participation criteria.

For more information on the rebates, go to

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561