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Solar panel campaign kicks off in South Fayette |

Solar panel campaign kicks off in South Fayette

Staff And Wire Reports
| Friday, March 13, 2015 7:07 p.m
Randy Jarosz | For Trib Total Media
Sharon Pillar, Vice-President of SmartPower, talks about the advantages of solar power Monday, March 2, during a Go-Solar Workshop at South Fayette Middle School.
Randy Jarosz | For Trib Total Media
Sharon Pillar, Vice-President of SmartPower, talks about the advantages of solar power Monday, March 2, during a Go-Solar Workshop at South Fayette Middle School.

When Natalie and Mike Ryan moved into their custom-built house in South Fayette three years ago, they had 39 solar panels placed on its roof.

Now, they only pay an electric bill from January through March. The Ryans’ monthly electric bill averages $36 per month over the entire year. They have a gas stove, two gas fireplaces and a geothermal heating system. Solar energy provides power for everything else.

“It just made good sense for us to do something to our house that we’ll live in forever that could give us something back and feel good about creating something that will help save energy from the earth,” Natalie said.

The original cost to have their solar panels installed was $41,000, but various credits brought that down to $18,000.

The Ryans can be considered a poster family for Solarize South Fayette, which kicked off its 20-week campaign to bring awareness to solar energy options to electricity during a presentation at South Fayette Middle School on March 2.

The initiative is sponsored by Solar Allegheny, a project funded by the Heinz Endowments and managed by SmartPower Inc., a nonprofit marketing firm.

South Fayette is one of the initial four communities in Allegheny County to springboard the program. The others are Point Breeze, Etna-Millvale and Moon.

Through the solarize Web site, those interested in solar power can access information such as how to finance installation of solar panels and receive solar installation quotes.

The campaign aims to reduce complexity, decrease costs through competitive pricing and connect residents with reputable installers.

Sharon Pillar, vice president of SmartPower, said there are 200 solar power installations in the county. She said the average system would have about 20 solar panels, costs $20,000 and a 30 percent federal tax credit reducing it by $6,000.

“It’s an amazing outpouring of enthusiasm and interest in going solar,” she said.

Pillar said it is a misnomer that cloudy days in western Pennsylvania prohibits gaining any benefits from solar power.

“That’s the very first thing people ask. It’s absolutely not true.”

“It works very well here in Pittsburgh. We get plenty of sunshine here to produce electricity and, in fact, we can produce as much solar electricity as they do in Arizona by adding an extra panel or two to the system.”

The organization hopes to work with libraries, homeowner associations and community organizations over the next 20 weeks in South Fayette to spread the word about solar power.

South Fayette commissioner Deron Gabriel encouraged township officials to get involved in the program after learning about the initiative.

“It’s an opportunity to allow our residents and businesses to explore whether solar energy will work for them,” Gabriel said. “Solar doesn’t work for everybody but it certainly works for certain people and certain businesses that find a financial incentive to do it.”

David Mayernik Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached

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