Concern for environment leads Fulton County farmer to go solar

by Geoff Fox

Melinda Golden is “truly concerned about the use of fossil fuels in our society” and has no doubt in her mind there is climate change occurring.

And if each person made a little bit of difference, it would help. For Golden, it was installing solar panels on her farm in Fulton County and her second farm in Maryland.

Golden had her first set of solar panels installed last year and recently had her second set installed on her machine shed.

Paradise Energy Solutions out of Hagerstown installed the panels.

“The sun’s here, if I can use it, why not use it,” Golden said.

She said there’s no difference in using the solar energy compared to electricity or fossil fuels.

“I know that I am not using electricity,” Golden said. “I just think it makes a difference.”

She did say some days she’s sending out into the grid and other times she’s pulling in the grid when not producing much electricity.

The solar panels on the machine shed are used mainly for the house, but on the Maryland farm, the agriculture buildings are tied into the solar panels.

Melinda Golden stands in front of the machine shed that has a solar array installed on the roof. Golden has gone solar is concerned about the use of fossil fuel and climate change affecting our world.

On that farm, there are sawmills and repair building that use the solar fields.

At the Fulton County farm, there is one meter that offsets 100% of the use of the meter. At the Maryland farm, there are four meters.

According to Brian Foltz, a solar consultant for Paradise Energy Solutions, there is a carve out in Maryland called virtual aggregate metering where one solar array and offset multiple meters.

Foltz said that is only for farms and non-profits.

“You can’t just be a rental king and have 20 rentals and do one array, for example,” he said.

There’s also a 30% federal tax credit through next year Golden can use on this year’s taxes or carry it forward 20 years.

Foltz said there’s also depreciation similar to buying a tractor for the farm that can be written off.

“Between the tax credit and depreciation, that takes care of about 55% of the cost of the solar array,” Foltz said. Because Golden owns a business with a tax liability, Foltz added she could absorb the tax credits very efficiently.

If a person wanted to go solar, but didn’t have a farm or business, Foltz said those people would still get the 30% federal tax incentive, plus in Maryland, they’d get a Maryland Residential Grant of $1,000. Because it’s for personal use, the depreciation wouldn’t be available.

Golden added the savings for those people could also be an advantage for those people going solar.

If people spend $200 a month, or $2,400 a year, on electricity, that’s money they could be saving, she said.

When first committing to solar, Golden had to pay a small amount, but now when she gets an electric bill, she doesn’t have to pay. She has had four draws though.

“She’s sort of pre-paying for electric for the next 30 40, 50 years by putting up solar,” Foltz said. “Plus she’s got increased real estate value if she ever sold the properties because obviously the property comes with no electric bill.”

If rates go up over time, Golden won’t have to see any increases in her electric bill because, as Foltz put it, “40% of zero is zero.”

In making her decision on Paradise Energy Solutions, Golden said approached three companies about solar energy.

One company came out, wandered around her property, but didn’t make a bid. The other two, she said, didn’t make an attempt.

Golden’s son farms on property owned by Foltz and made the suggestion to contact him about the solar energy.

This allowed Golden to have another comparison to think about. It was a Thursday when Foltz first contacted Golden.

She took the weekend to think about the situation.

“I thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to do it,’” Golden said. “It was just like that.”

She added the company dealt with getting the correct permits and all the paperwork, made sure the roof was strong enough for the panels, and accommodate the panels.

It took about two days for the entire installation to be completed.

As a teacher, Golden, who has since retired, taught a unit on renewable energy such as and solar, to her students.

“I just don’t understand why people aren’t more aware of the changes that we see and think we have to start to make some changes in the way do things,” Golden said.