G&S Machine goes solar

G&S Machine installs rooftop solar panels ... G&S Machine, a metal fabrication company located just east of Waukon on Elon Drive, has recently installed a rooftop system of solar panels that will produce over 250,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The aerial drone photo above shows the extent of the project at about three-fourths of its completion, while the photo below shows an end-to-end view of the project upon completion. Photos courtesy of CB Solar of Des Moines, the company that installed the system utilizing the services of other local vendors.

New rooftop array produces equivalent to the electricity use of 22 U.S. homes

by Lissa Blake

One of the largest privately owned solar arrays in Iowa is now up and running in Waukon. Gil Hunstad of G&S Machine recently had 554 370-watt solar panels installed on the roof of his business located just east of Waukon on Elon Drive.

“The system is estimated to produce over 250,000 kWhs (kilowatt hours) of electricity per year, which is equivalent to the electric use of about 22 U.S. homes,” said Matt Edwards, controller for CB Solar of Des Moines, installer of the solar project.

The system is built on top of Hunstad’s metal fabrication facility, which covers an 80-foot x 200-foot area. “We put rails across the roof for the panels to sit on,” said Hunstad.

The new system has a 204.98 kW (kilowatt) rating, and it will produce electricity that will go directly back into the area electric grid. The 554 panels create DC (direct current) power, which feeds into five inverters which then convert the DC to AC (alternating current) power and feed it back into Alliant Energy’s electrical lines.

“We get credit for the electricity. Even on a cloudy day when we’re not making electricity, we will be using it,” said Hunstad.

He said if the panels produce more electricity than Hunstad’s business uses, his leftover credit can be donated to LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program).

Hunstad said not only will the system eventually help him save money, he felt it was the right thing to do. It is estimated his payback on the project will take about five years.

The cost of the project was offset by a grant from the Rural Energy for America program through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition, Hunstad will be able to take advantage of federal and state tax credits, which he has ten years to use. He said CB Solar subcontracted with several local vendors for assistance in completing the project.

Edwards added the system Hunstad purchased “has no moving parts and there isn’t any required maintenance.”

“There is a 25-year warranty on the production of the panels. It’s definitely a set it and forget it system,” said Edwards.

Edwards said it is interesting to look up equivalencies for the quantity of greenhouse gas and other emissions which are eliminated by a project of this size.

For example, a system of this magnitude replaces greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to what is produced by 37.5 passenger vehicles per year or carbon dioxide emissions from 19,893 gallons of gasoline being burned. Running this system is also the equivalent of the amount of carbon sequestered by 2,923 tree seedlings growing for 10 years.

To view more about these equivalencies, visit https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator.

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