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Expert: Investing in solar means sunny days ahead

Mail Tribune

Investment opportunities with good returns are hard to find these days.

Buzz Thielemann of RHT Energy Solutions suggests Rogue Valley residents and businesses look to their roofs.

Thielemann isn't pitching shingles, rather he's singing the praises of solar panels for everything from a new-found affordability to tax breaks and a chance to reduce electric bills by more than a third for a typical residence.

Thielemann hopes to produce a surge of interest during a series of town hall meetings in coming days promoting the Rogue Solar program that could wind up installing 800 kilowatts worth of solar panels. "This totally beats a CD or money-market funds by a factor of 10," Thielemann said. "I'm a green guy, but whatever I do has got to pencil out; the solar project I did on my business paid off in five years."

The average Northwest residence burns through about 11,000 kilowatts per year, Thielemann said. Installing a 3-killowatt system will produce about 36 percent of a house's normal consumption — or about $400 in annual savings."

Money to inform Jackson and Josephine County residents about the Rogue Solar offering is being channeled through Rogue Valley Council of Governments, which received a grant is from the Portland area solar program.

The local money is a small share of the $400,000 Portland received from the Solar America Fund, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The stimulus money was designed to shift electrical production from coal and hydro sources while boosting employment in the solar field.

The panels used in the program are built by SolarWorld in Hillsboro and distributed through North Coast Electric. "We bought in bulk," Thielemann said. "So the more we buy, the bigger the discount."

Five area companies are involved in the installation: True South Solar, Alternative Energy Systems, Pro Electric Inc., Electron Connection and Renewable Energy Solutions.

Thielemann's company, RHT Energy Solutions, is not involved in installation.

Rogue Solar is presenting several free workshops around the Rogue Valley to help residents and businesses work through the logistical and financial obstacles to going solar.

The first session runs from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, in Pioneer Hall, 73 Winburn Way, Ashland. Presentations are scheduled for July 12 at the Medford library, July 19 at the Ashpole Center in Eagle Point and July 26 at Grants Pass City Hall.

Solar Oregon, Energy Trust of Oregon, Pacific Power, the City of Ashland, Umpqua Bank and Rogue Federal Credit Union are also participating in the program.

Participants must enroll Oct 15. For details, contact Dan Moore at dmoore@rvcog.org or 541-423-1361.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.

Workers from True South of Ashland install solar panels made at SolarWorld in Hillsboro. Rogue Solar will present free workshops on the technology June 26, July 12, July 19 and July 26. - Courtesy of RHT Energy Solutions