MADISON (WKOW) -- October 9 was a day of bright possibilities for the owner of a very big, very flat facility in south Madison. "We're going to leave something positive for ours kids," said Bobby Hinds, the owner of Lifeline USA. He's also now the first business owner in Madison to purchase solar panels through the city's new program MadiSun.
"He contacted the program, I had a conversation on the phone with him," said Larry Walker, the ground person for the program. "I went out to his business and measured the solar window and I explained to him the costs and benefits, and he was pretty impressed it didn't cost nearly as much as he thought it would."
The purpose of MadiSun is to streamline the process of installing photovoltaic solar-eletric panels, and to make it less intimidating. The federal government is funding similar programs in a couple dozen cities around the country. The goal is to double the number of PV installations within the next two years. As of this past June in Madison, there were about 200 such installations.
Since it began this past summer, more than 100 people put their names on a waiting list. Walker then looks up their address on Google Maps "street view" service.
"If a house looks promising, there's a good southern exposure, there's not too many trees, I'll go out to the house."
In the case of a home or business like Hinds's, Walker will snap a series of 14 photopgraphs to show month by month, where the sun shines on a rooftop.
"We're able to get an idea of how many trees there are, how close they are, and give them a preliminary assessment that says your house is really promising or your house is sort of mediocre."
Given the size of Hinds' warehouse-like distribution facility, nothing is there to block all that free energy. "And the when I put a figure to it, it's monetarily sound," said Hinds, describing why he decided to install the panels. For him, the cost of this project will be $84,000. After tax breaks, he's out of pocket just $20,000. Walker said the estimated payback time will be seven years.
Still, as Madison tries to double the number of solar panels in town, even Walker said it could be a bit difficult. There's plenty of trees in Madison. Furthermore, due to the geography of the Isthmus, many streets are at 45-degree angles, making a solar panel less likely to face south and less likely to pay for itself.
"It's actually much more attractive for businesses," said Walker.
Businesses tend to have bigger roofs. Hinds is an owner who can't wait to power everything inside with nothing more than the sun.
"Oh, that'll be a great feeling, yeah," laughs Hinds.
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2013 WorldNow and WKOW. All Rights Reserved.
Persons with disabilities who need assistance with issues relating to the content of this station's public inspection file should contact Program Manager Jessica Miller at 608-661-2794. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, at 888-835-5322 (TTY) or at email@example.com.