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Solar Power Projects

Daly Dog Care

by DAVID ERICKSON - Ravalli Republic | July 28, 2010

The decision to buy solar panels was a no-brainer for Karen and Gary Pelkey, owners of Daly Dog Care between Hamilton and Corvallis.

"The numbers are tremendous," Gary explained. "You'd have to be crazy not to do it now."

The Pelkeys recently took advantage of a $6,000 grant for solar equipment made available to Oasis Montana Inc. in Stevensville by NorthWestern Energy. The power utility gives grants to solar companies to promote solar energy, and the Pelkeys were the first residential customers to take advantage of the grant this year.

They operate Daly Dog Care on their property, where they had a barn-raising last Saturday. They hope to install 36 solar panels on the roof of their new barn by the end of August, and they will start immediately reaping the benefits.

"It's going to cover 68-percent of the energy used on the property on average," Gary Pelkey explained.

In addition to the $6,000 grant, the federal government is also giving the Pelkeys, or anyone who invests in solar power, a tax credit to cover 30 percent of the initial cost.

"We are getting a third back from the government," Pelkey said. "It almost makes it half price. The whole thing was cheap. I invested in [solar energy] years ago, and it was extremely expensive. But now, it's a great deal for us."

Karen Pelkey, who runs Wild About Pets with her husband and also has an organic garden at the Daly Dog Care property, agreed.

"A lot of peole say ‘Yeah we want to go solar, but it's just too expensive,'" she said. "But with all of this help and kickback from the government, it's really affordable. There is a loan program available with a 4 percent fixed rate as well."

Gary Pelkey said the total cost of the solar panels, including installation, is going to be about $38,000. But with $6,000 from the grant and 30 percent kicked in by the government, he said he will only have to make loan payments of about $150 per month.

"It's a 10-year note, so it will be paid for in 10 years," he said. "You are also allowed a $500 tax-rebate every year to further invest in the system. We are going to run the whole property, and if we produce more power than we use we will get a credit from the utility."

Oasis Montana will install a grid-tie solar system on the Pelkey's barn roof, meaning they won't have to purchase an expensive battery.

"Grid-tie solar systems are the new-school of solar systems," said employee Brad Stevens of Oasis Montana. "The solar modules produce power, and then an inverter sends it to the house. If they produce more energy than they can use, the meter spins backwards and they get a credit from the utility."

Stevens said NorthWestern Energy has been a leader in the push to invest in solar energy.

"They have been fabulous to work with," he said. "Hopefully other utilities get on board with this. They are trying to get people to use solar power so they cut down on their load. They have grants to promote solar power and they have grants to get people to make their houses more energy efficient."

Oasis Montana was approved by NorthWestern Energy to receive $36,000 in grant money for solar power installations. Stevens said they are dividing that up into six parcels of $6,000 each, so there are still five grants up for grabs. Although the Pelkeys are using the solar panels to power their property where they also have a business, residential customers also qualify for the grants.

"It's on a first-come first-serve basis," Stevens said. "We have had a few other people that are thinking about it, but nothing for sure yet."

For Gary and Karen Pelkey, the decision to switch to the sun's energy brings more than just financial benefits.

"Energy costs are going to continue to rise," Gary said. "So becoming self-sufficient is important. The environmental aspect is important to us as well."

Daly Dog Care is located at 779 Eastside Hwy. between Corvallis and can be reached at 961-1919. Oasis Montana can be reached at 777-4321.

Reporter David Erickson can be reached at 363-3300 or [email protected].

Reprinted with permission from the Ravalli Republic.


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