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pv system


Roof top of MACED
Rooftop of the MACED building.

On the roof of MACED's main office in Berea, Ky., there are rows of solar panels facing south towards the mountains. The solar electric photovoltaic (PV) system became active in March 2012 and supplies approximately 60 percent of the building's electricity needs.


The vision of using solar energy for the office began when MACED became concerned about rising electric rates and more aware of the benefits of clean energy. Momentum to move forward with the PV project grew when a federal incentive program from the U.S Treasury that would allow us to save 30 percent on the installed cost became available.


Some of the preparations identified for installation of the PV system included: 

• Site selection for the modules and assessing mounting options.

• Removing unused gas vents and moving other plumbing vents that penetrated the roof to allow space for the PV array.

• Merging the building's four electricity meters into one.

• Implementing energy efficient measures for the building.

Roof top of MACED
Solar Energy Solutions installing the panels.

Energy efficient measures included installing blown-in cellulose insulation to most of the building's attic space when access was made available when the plumbing vent locations were being moved. By blowing insulation into the attic and implementing other energy saving measures before the solar installation, the building has used less energy, allowing the new solar electric system to produce a larger portion of the building's overall energy needs.


Merging the four electric meters into one caused additional savings. MACED has minimized monthly base-fee charges by merging the four existing meters – one meter for a large commercial class account and three meters for small commercial accounts – into one meter serving a single large commercial account. Changing the three small commercial meters (with base rates of $17.93) to one large commercial meter (with a base rate of $22.42) reduced the monthly base-rate charges from $76.21 to $22.42. MACED was also able to apply all of its energy use at less expensive rates that large commercial class accounts enjoy from Berea Municipal Utility (BMU). MACED would pay $0.0551 per kWh for all electricity used, when it was paying $0.0698 before the switch.


An additional advantage to the solar installation is that MACED's 25 kW PV system is net metered, meaning that any electricity created by the system and delivered to the grid will be credited to MACED's account at retail rate. Thus, the building's monthly expense for electricity will be based on the net electricity used that month. If there is a net excess generation for a given month, the credit will carry over and be applied towards a following month.


Roof top of MACED
Josh Bills explaining the solar tracking system to Operations and Finance Director, Carol Lamm.

MACED Operations and Finance Director Carol Lamm hopes MACED will have information to share with people living in the Central Appalachian region the organization serves as a result of its experience with the PV system. Some information the group has already learned includes how a sizable solar PV system works in an office building in Kentucky's climate, and how it works in the context of a small municipal electric utility with a net-metering program.


"MACED's immediate benefits are that from the start, we are contributing to cleaner air and water," Lamm said. "Every kilowatt hour produced on the MACED roof means that power plants that burn fossil fuels — and release numerous pollutants in the process — won't have to produce that electricity."


In the year and seven months since MACED's PV system was installed the organization has already seen financial benefits. The system generates approximately 30,575 kWh of electricity a year and saved MACED $2,300 in 2012.


The complete pay-off of the new PV system will take several years. However, by generating electricity through a renewable source, the Berea MACED office will reduce its carbon footprint by 21 metric tons per year, which is equivalent to taking five cars off the road. Data collected from the system will also provide MACED with valuable knowledge to share with municipal electric utilities in Kentucky that have not yet implemented net metering as an option for their customers.