“It was kind of a pipe dream of mine years ago, but the industry wasn’t quite ready yet,” said Dick Weltsch of the two 200+ solar panel arrays now behind his implement dealership in Redwood Falls.
“We looked at the costs of electricity — fixed costs — and they get to be very expensive. That number keeps going up, and it can be a weight on a business,” said Dick Weltsch, co-owner of Weltsch Equipment, Inc., this week.
Weltsch was discussing the two new solar arrays behind his implement dealership, close to the Redwood Falls airport.
The two arrays — 250 and 200 feet long — could theoretically power the dealership on good days.
“It was kind of a pipe dream of mine years ago, but the industry wasn’t quite ready yet,” Weltsch continued.
A couple years ago, while browsing the exhibits at Farmfest, Weltsch stopped at the Blue Horizon Energy booth. He was surprised to find out how far the technology and economics had come.
A representative showed up at Weltsch Equipment one day, “and threw some theoreticals at us. Ryan (Weltsch) plugs in some numbers, and it all started making sense,” Weltsch said.
“Ryan came on board about a year ago, planning it and running against our accountant, and they made it a reality,” said Weltsch.
Solar energy is variable, depending on how much sunlight is reaching the panels at any given moment.
However, the implement dealership’s energy needs vary also.
“On Saturdays and Sundays, we (create net energy), and on weekdays we take it all back,” said Weltsch.
“It’s not a money maker, per se. The idea is to match your energy creation with what you consume.”
Ryan said, “We have to tailor the size of our system to our expected energy needs.”
After examining the dealership’s energy needs, Blue Horizon Energy decided an 80 kilowatt array that produces 101,000 kilowatt hours yearly would suffice.
The array is hooked up to the grid — on sunny days, Weltsch Equipment can actually produce more energy than it uses and transfer the rest out for general use.
Blue Horizon Energy set up the two arrays in Dec. 2014. Being near an airport didn’t present any problems — the FFA approved it with no hesitation.
Ryan said, “The panels aren’t too reflective. The FFA told us the panels were designed to take in sunlight, not reflect it.”
After a month or so of tweaking, the system came online and started producing energy on Feb. 4.
The economics worked out this time because of a 30 percent investment tax credit, and a possible USDA renewable energy grant that would pay for up to 25 percent the cost of the project.
Ryan estimated that if the economics work out as planned, the solar arrays could pay for themselves in about seven years.
But for all the economics, Weltsch said he likes the solar arrays for another reason.
“It’s good for us, and it’s good for our children’s children,” he said.