Making the Switch to Solar

Consumers who switch to solar energy are now seeing a faster return on their investments, and Sun Solar in Springfield, Missouri is helping locals make the switch.

By Harrison Keegan

Jun 2013

Caleb Arthur of Sun Solar.
Photo By Brad ZweerinkCaleb Arthur of Sun Solar.

Almost no one likes getting mail from the utility company. Caleb Arthur wants to change that. Arthur, the owner of Sun Solar (1926 W Woodland St, Springfield, MO‎​, 417-413-1786), is helping more and more people get money back from the utility company, all thanks to residential solar panels.

Arthur says solar panels are on the rise in Missouri because reduced material costs and government incentives are helping the systems pay for themselves sooner rather than later. “For the first time in the history of Missouri, in the 25-year life of the system, you can actually make your own solar energy cheaper than you can buy it off the grid,” Arthur says.

There are two types of solar energy, photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal. The more popular PV panels generate electricity, and the solar thermal panels produce heat. With a PV system, consumers in southwest Missouri can start making money on their investment within seven to 12 years. As in the photos above, which show solar panels that produce energy from the sun then store it in batteries until it is used by the homeowners, it’s not uncommon to see solar panels on a neighbor’s home or backyard.

And in this particular project, which provides solar power for a 5,000-square foot home, the panels take up a 100-by-15-foot slab. Arthur says solar electricity isn’t just good for your pocketbook, it’s also a lot better for the environment. “You are kind of like your own little power plant,” Arthur says. “You are saving trees, you are cutting down on transportation, and the panels don’t let off any kind of harmful [carbon dioxide] gases or anything like that.”

There are three systems for generating PV solar energy: off-grid, grid-tie with battery back-up and grid-tie. Off-grid systems use solar panels to power the house and charge batteries during the day, then run off batteries at night. The grid-tie with battery back-up systems work off of panels full time, but batteries are included so that the house can operate if the grid fails. And both the grid-tie with battery back up and grid-tie systems work with the utility company. During the day, when the panels are producing energy from the sun, the electric meter runs backward and energy is given back to the utility company. At night, when the panels aren’t producing, the utility company gives some of that energy back to the consumer. “It works kind of like AT&T roll-over minutes,” Arthur says. “At the end of the month, they settle up and give you a money credit that goes toward your bill.”