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Morgan County Courthouse Goes Solar, First for WV

Berkeley Springs, WV - On Friday, the Morgan County Commission and Mountain View Solar officially announced the Morgan County Courthouse has gone solar. The event marked a few firsts. For one, it’s the first courthouse in the state to have solar panels.

The project, a joint effort between Morgan County, Mountain View Solar, and West Virginia Division of Energy, was completely funded by a West Virginia Division of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. And it will save the county an estimated 29,000 kilowatt hours, or about $10,000 per year.

All panels or parts of the solar array were manufactured wholly in the U.S. by Solar World, and include 108 solar modules on the courthouse roof, rated at 235 watts. The inverters that convert the energy into electricity will offset some 20 tons of carbon, so it is environmentally responsible as well as energy-efficient.

A state-of-the-art monitoring system unveiled shows the public how much electricity the system is generating daily, monthly, and yearly at any given time. Shown as “Sun at Work,” the digital panel can be found beside the county clerk’s office, or followed online at http://www.solarworld-usa.com.

Mountain View Solar’s Director of Operations Colin Williams said, “The amount of energy produced, according to government standards, would power three typical family homes for one year. As energy rates go up, the savings will increase.”

“The amount of energy produced, according to government standards, would power three typical family homes for one year. As energy rates go up, the savings will increase.” - Mountain View Solar’s Director of Operations Colin Williams

He showed the public a quick-time movie of the installation and said, “This is a historic event for our county and our country. West Virginia is leading the way, and Morgan County is a pioneer. Solar energy provides energy when the grid needs it the most, at peak demand hours like sunny afternoons. They feed energy into the grid, so they make the grid in the county more stable.”

McKechnie said, “Representatives of Potomac Edison are here. They support solar energy. We can supplement the energy we’ve had for over 100 years in West Virginia. Everybody in the region is fueled by West Virginia coal. Solar and coal work together.”

Commissioners Stacy Dugan, Brenda Hutchinson, and Brad Close praised their staff for pursuing the grant, and Mountain View Solar for taking the lead. They pointed out that no taxpayer dollars were spent, and yet the county could save the taxpayers money. The system was installed by a local company employing local residents.

Mountain View Solar began as Mountain View Builders, with Pete and Mike McKechnie. They have 20 years’ experience as custom home builders. Colin Williams is also a custom home builder. A few years ago, the McKechnie’s began exploring alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. They are licensed in West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Mountain View Solar is the largest solar installer in the state.

While some Morgan County residents have installed wind units, Williams says solar is much more reliable and cheaper.  “You get three times as much energy from solar as wind. Wind turbines have moving parts with a shorter life. There’s a 25-year warranty on the solar panels. The cost of solar has gone down substantially over the years.”

Another first was the fact there’s more solar installed in Morgan County than any other.  “We have more residential solar installed per capita probably than any other county in the country,” said Williams.

“We’ve installed hundreds of solar arrays in the region, commercial and residential,” continued Williams. “They are affordable and modular. We are currently working on two projects in the southern part of the state, one of them being for the City of Hurricane.”

He said it costs about $15,000 for a start-up system of ten panels, that can be added to over time. With state and federal tax credits, final cost to the homeowner would be about $8,000. He said it could produce enough energy to save about $300 a year at current electric rates. As rates increase, savings will increase. In about 10 years, the system would pay for itself.

Net metering is allowed in all surrounding states and West Virginia. That means the meter reads in both directions. If more energy is produced than used, it flows backwards and the user gets a credit on their bill.

“And we see more and more people wanting to install panels with electric car charging stations,” Williams said. “The company has a new electric car.”

In fact, McKechnie drove an electric Nissan Leaf to the ribbon cutting. He said soon, with incentives, the company hopes to work a deal to get a car charging station at a local service station.

“Our car was built in Japan. But Nissan will soon be making this car and batteries in Tennessee,” McKechnie said. “It doesn’t have a gasoline motor or tailpipe. The solar array was manufactured, not assembled, in the U.S. We have to start thinking again about making things in America. And we at Mountain View Solar wanted to use American products.”

More information, (304) 258-4733 or http://www.mtvsolar.com

Photos:
1 - Ribbon Cuttin (Left to Right) - Mountain View Solar VP Pete McKechnie, Morgan County Commissioners Stacy Dugan and Brenda Hutchinson, Mountain View Solar Director of Operations Colin Williams, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw, Mountain View Solar Engineer Clay Herzog, Morgan County Grants Assistant Carol York and County Administrator Jodi McClintock, Morgan County Commissioner Brad Close

2 - Panel installation on courthouse roof.

3 - Mountain View Solar’s Mike McKechnie explains an example of the solar panels to a citizen arriving for the solar array unveiling.

4 - WV Attorney General Darrell McGraw next to electric monitor in courthouse showing electric generated by solar array on roof.