A Seaforth businessman and a Seaforth homeowner are now helping to provide the electricity needs in town with solar microFIT installations on their roofs.

Len Teatero, of Teatero Motor Products and Joe Ryan are providing electricity to the grid for at least the next 20 years, Teatero with 51 solar panels and Ryan with 27 panels.

“I’m always interested in new things and the fact you can make money off of solar panels really interested me. I don’t think people realize how much money they can make,” says Ryan, a retired farmer now living on Louisa Street in Seaforth.

Ryan invested $40,000 to install the panels on the roof of his shed and his house and earning a price of 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour, says his investment will be paid off in 5.7 years. After that, he figures he’ll be making $6,000 a year for 14 years from the solar panels.

“I think they’re the cat’s meow. I’d like to extend the ones we have now and get some more,” says Ryan. “There’s no noise, no lights or distractions – the neighbours probably haven’t even noticed they’re there.”

Ryan bought his solar panels from a company in Toronto, who found an electrician to hook them up. He says his south-facing roof was a perfect fit for the installation.

“There’s all kinds of people selling solar now. In 2009 there were three companies and now there are 185,” he says, adding he talked to a number of companies before making a decision about which one to use.

Sitting in front of his computer, Ryan says he loves to keep track of how much energy his solar panels are producing. Even on an overcast day with snow on the solar panels, Ryan notes that he’s producing enough to light 117 light bulbs, use three gallons of gas or create a carbon offset of one tree.

“I’m happy with it so far, even without a lot of sun. You hope you’re making a better world. But, you’re not going to spend $40,000 for nothing,” he says, adding that the financial incentive makes it worthwhile.

Ryan is looking forward to the summer, the peak time to create solar energy to see the maximum output possible for his installation.

Ryan says he’s planning to help sell solar panels to other interested people in Seaforth and is starting to plan an open house sometime in the spring to provide information.

“There are a lot of houses in Seaforth facing south,” he says.

Teatero says he’s been wondering about solar panels ever since he and his wife Donna took a trip to the Dominican Republic six years ago and noticed that many of the small huts, while off the grid, still had their own solar panels to power a fridge and a radio.

“I couldn’t believe it and it got me intrigued. I wondered why we didn’t do it here,” he says.

When Teatero heard about the microFIT program, he did a year’s worth of research and found a reputable firm selling solar panels. He paid between $60,000 and $80,000 for his solar panels and says at the 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour rate, he’ll have them paid off in five years and will make close to $200,000 over the 20-year contract.

“It’s amazing money and a guaranteed investment. I think it’s better than any RSP they’ve got. There really is no downside from everything I’ve read,” he says.

The solar panels are on the Teatero’s new body shop building, which faces south and the panels are stationary.

“They don’t need a lot of maintenance – I just leave them and the snow melts away,” he says.

While Teatero says he’s “as much for the environment as anyone,” the decision to install the solar panels was “strictly a business decision.”

“But, I think every home should have solar panels. The government should give every homeowner a rebate and it should be mandated that every new house needs to have solar panels. Just think how much less we’d need the nuclear plant or the coal-fired plants if everyone had them if only just to power their own house – we’d save billions,” he says.

Jac Vanderbaan, the chief operating officer at Festival Hydro, says that while there are only two Seaforth people, one residence and one business, with solar panel installations so far, he’s expecting rooftop solar to become a lot more popular.

“It will definitely catch on,” he says, adding that the price of 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour makes the rooftop installations worthwhile. He says ground-mounted solar installations popular on a lot of area farms used to offer the 80.2 cents pay-off but were recently reduced to 58.8 cents.

During Festival Hydro’s area, there are 11 rooftop installations, most of which are in Stratford but two are in St. Marys and one large installation is on the roof of the Home Hardware business in Brussels.

“People who went into it early are seeing good revenues. Most of them get paid back in six to 10 years in a 20-year contract,” he says.

Vanderbaan says that the way hydro works, people with solar installations hooked up to the grid are powering their neighbours’ homes and helping to meet local demand.

“You are helping your own communities by doing this. It would be great if every house had solar power,” he says. “The green aspect is really good, especially during the summer peak when you generate the most power.”

Vanderbaan says the number of solar panels a homeowner can buy depends on the size of his or her roof and while there is no lower limit to the number of panels that can be installed, he adds that larger installations make more money.

As well, he admits, the payoff is not as good if the roof doesn’t face south.

source: seaforthhuronexpositor