TERRA ALTA — On a recent Saturday morning, with the sun shining down on our state, Brian Kahly of Possum Tail Farm in Terra Alta checked his electricity meter and saw his farm’s solar panels already produced 30 more kilowatt hours than the farm used.
The farm’s 52-panel system, connected directly to MonPower’s electricity grid, was installed by Mountain View Solar last month and went live the second week of September.
“It’s sized based on our current usage,” Brian said, of the system.
Excited to share their new energy system, Jennifer and Brian Kahly invited the community to visit Possum Tail Farm’s solar installation. And more than two dozen guests showed up
to learn about the farm’s energy independence.
The Kahlys’ presentation was part of the National Solar Tour sponsored by American Solar energy society and United Solar Neighbors.
Over 700 solar tours were held across the U.S over the weekend. Of the solar-powered homes and businesses in West Virginia, about 20 hosted tours as part of the National Solar Tour, according to nationalsolartour.org.
During the two tours at Possum Tail Farm, attendees viewed the solar system, which includes an electric car-charging station for customers to use while visiting the farm and store; toured the Certified Naturally Grown grass-fed beef operations and the family’s garden plots; saw the pet goats and enjoyed refreshments.
“I’m glad to see interest in the community in energy independence,” Brian Kahly said.
Jennifer Kahly said she and her husband always try to be conscious and conservative with their electricity use, on a personal level and as part of their organic farming philosophy.
“We felt the next step was to off-set our fossil fuel use,” Jennifer Kahly said.
The process to install their solar system took the Kahlys about two years. They received the Rural Energy for America (REAP) Grant through the USDA, which covered 25 percent of the farm-use installation costs. That includes electric fencing and freezers for meat storage.
“You have to be willing to put in the long-term investment,” Brain Kahly said, elaborating that as their electric bills go down, the system will off-set it’s own costs. “Years from now, it’ll all be free,” he said.
Since the installation of the system, he has seen it produce 94 kw — 14 kw above their energy usage for an entire day, depending on cloud cover.
Representatives of Mountain View solar, installers of the Possum Tail Farm solar system, attended the solar tour at Terra Alta.
“Farms are great for solar,” said Dave Fleeharty, solar consultant with Mountain View Solar, because of the space options often available for panel placement. Fleeharty added homes and other buildings can also benefit from solar systems.
“Giving people energy independence is the biggest thing for me,” Fleeharty said, as he surveyed the farm’s solar system.
“Everything that’s working is powered by solar,” Kiki McKechnie, who does permitting and interconnection for Mountain View Solar, said after the tour.
Mountain View Solar installed 70 percent of the solar systems in West Virginia, according to Fleeharty. Many of these installations have been through area solar co-ops, which any community member can join.
United Solar Neighbors Mountaineer Country Solar Co-Op is accepting members. Info can be found at solarunitedneighbors.org.
McKechnie, said the National Solar tours are important for communities and individuals to better understand energy independence.
“I think it is very helpful for people to see the equipment,” McKechnie said, “and to see the meter running backward.”
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By Aldona Bird