National solar tours show solar energy at work

BUCKHANNON – A  local man always tried to promote solar energy but until a few years ago thought it was unaffordable for the regular person.

Than, he received a $1,500 electric bill and decided to investigate solar energy more thoroughly.

Kevin Campbell now is able to operate his residence on solar and battery back-up.

He listed his home on the National Solar Tour that was held Sunday and invited people to come take a look at the solar system he has designed.

“We have 12 panels on the roof,” he said. “Each one is 235 watts so we can generate a maximum of 2,860 wats for continuous generation. Right now, it would be less than that, because the sun just went behind the clouds.”

Campbell then stores what is generated for later use.

“Everything that is generated goes into the batteries,” he said. “There is a solar charge controller that feeds the batteries and then there is a big invertor that takes the power from the batteries and connects to the electrical panel that runs the whole building.”

Campbell makes his residence in the former Adrian School, a property he purchased in 2006. But the large structure doesn’t affect what he is able to do.

“During the day when it is sunny like this, I can run as much stuff as I want to run at any given time,” he said.

This will be the first year that Campbell is able to fully test the system with all 12 panels.

“We bought 12 panels last year but we were only able to get six on before winter because we didn’t have enough rail to finish it,” he said. “We just recently got the rest of the rails. The shipping was twice as much as the cost of the rail.

“Now, we are putting out a maximum of 2860. It’s all we need during the day. It charges the batteries and when the sun goes down, we can run off the batteries for hours. My next step is to get more batteries so I can go days without sun and keep running.”

It’s something that Campbell thought was out of reach a few years ago.

“I’ve been promoting solar for years,” he said. “Back when the government was giving some incentives to do some green things – part of that stimulus package was there were a lot of proposals for green things to the college and county commission. They said if we can get grant money for it, we will be glad to do that.”

The city did get funding for a geo thermal project but the other projects that Campbell promoted did not.

“All the time, people were asking, ‘Do you have solar?’” Campbell recalled.  “About three years ago, there was a surprise bill from Mon Power of $1,500. They consider me to be rural. They only want to meter once every six weeks. I got hit with a $1,500 surprise that I couldn’t pay all at once.

Campbell had his electric turned off and has lived off the grid since then. For heat, he relies on coal or propane mostly.

“I had a small generator and we started using that and we bought some batteries. That’s how we got by for the first year.  Then we started heading the solar panels.

“We still run a generator when we need to,” he said. “If it’s been raining for two days and there is nothing left in the batteries, we can fire up the generator for an hour, recharge the batteries and go for a few more hours with the generator.  “We are never without power. There are times that we don’t need it on and we will deliberately leave it off.”

“We are completely off the grid. That is what is unique about this system and part of the reason I put it on the tour.”

Campbell also has another reason for remaining off the grid.

“I chose not to be on the grid for a number of reasons but the electric utility rate payers are ultimately the ones going to be paying for these pipeline even though the majority of the gas is going for export. It’s not fair and I don’t want to be part of it. That’s my primary reason for being off the grid.”

“I also want to show people that it can be done and that you can live OK without being on the grid. There are times I walk outside and I have power and I am listening to generators running to my neighbors because the grid is down and it goes down a lot around here.”


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