When Duane Williams contacted SunLion Energy Systems about a solar panel installation on his property, his statement was, “I want a relationship with an individual and a company that I can meet five years from now and sit down in a coffee shop and have coffee together.” Williams owns Valley Enterprises, a family-owned agribusiness in Adams County. The farm has been in the family since 1736, and the original grant for the property came from William Penn’s son. Currently they raise grain and hay as well as fruit and custom beef cattle, both of which are available at their farm market. He lives on the largest underground aquifer (lake) in the area and wants the property to be the legacy investment for his daughter and future generations. He wanted to establish his energy independence and make the farm as self-sufficient as possible. Williams says, “After looking at the various energy alternatives, we decided that solar would be the most efficient and effective system for our location.”
After seeking Requests for Proposals from six solar companies and interviewing two, Williams decided “SunLion not only had the best technical credentials but also epitomized the type of company and people that we like to deal with…totally honest and trustworthy.” Matt Santoff, the SunLion Energy representative Williams originally discussed his installation with, visited the location to perform a free site evaluation. He immediately knew there would be some hurdles for the company to contend with, but wanted to make the most intelligently-designed system for Valley Enterprises. The property had steep hillsides facing south, which is the best directional orientation for modules. The wire run would be one of the longest the company had trenched and, to complicate matters, it ran through a stream. Williams bulldozed a large portion of scrub brush on his property to eliminate shading issues and make room for the ground-mounted 47.04kW system.
Since Williams has a neighboring property with tenants, he chose the Virtual Net Metering option, which allows him to share the extra energy production he creates with his system back into the grid which will then be used by the tenants. Williams has plans to increase the size of his system in the future. SunLion Energy’s systems are a modular design, so more panels or strings can be added to existing installations.
When asked if he would recommend solar to other farmers, Williams says, “Of all the passive systems available, only solar represents the optimum rate of return for the investment. Solar comes in ahead of all the current competition.” And would he recommend SunLion Energy? “What great folks!” he states. “They approached the installation as if it were for a family member.”
Like Valley Enterprises, businesses can still take advantage of the popular 30% Federal ITC Grant by having a signed contract for solar PV or solar thermal by December 31, 2011. The ITC grant is a cash deposit into the business bank account made after the system is commissioned. Any commercial contracts signed after January 1, 2012, will continue to be eligible for the 30% federal tax credit.