Panel discussion

Seeking to harness the power of the Seneca County sun, a complete solar system has been installed at Steyer Seeds, 6145 N. CR 33, to help provide for the company’s energy needs.

Tony Steyer of Steyer Seeds said Ecojiva, a solar company from Troy, Mich., installed the system, which was a three-day process. He said the ease and durability of solar panels and the tax benefits of switching to solar were significant motivations to install the system.

“You’ve got the sun, why not take advantage of it,” he said.

The 25-year expected life of the panels was an attractive guarantee, too. The panels, he said, are strong enough to easily withstand Seneca County weather.

Steyer said when the company considered other alternative energy options, such as wind, solar was an attractive option because of the relative simplicity of the systems. Having no moving parts, he said, allows for “fewer things to go wrong,” and solar panel systems are quieter than windmills.

In addition, he said, the solar panels required for the system don’t infringe on company property because they aren’t “taking up space in fields.” Even installation of the system, he said, didn’t interfere with everyday company operations.

Steyer said the company projects the solar system to save Steyer Seeds about $7,000 in energy costs per year.

Jess Ennis, sales director at Ecojiva, said the agricultural environment of northwest Ohio makes solar an attractive choice for the area.

Farms “provide a lot of space for solar panels,” he said.

Ennis said Ecojiva has installed systems similar to the one at Steyer Seeds in 98 locations in Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota.

The systems themselves, he said, “are pretty straightforward” and include the solar panels, inverters and a meter. A net meter is installed by a client’s energy company when a solar system is installed, he said, which measures electrical flow in both directions.

Using a net meter, Ennis said, allows for companies such as Steyer Seeds to create and then utilize solar energy surpluses, thereby reducing energy costs. The meter allows power to “have a seamless flow in both directions,” he said.

The technology involved in solar systems, he said, is advanced enough to allow for solar energy to be produced 365 days a year, regardless of weather conditions. The systems installed by Ecojiva, he said, are monitored constantly by the company to ensure they are operating correctly, and maintenance tends to be minimal.

Investing in solar power, he said, can be a “very exciting” option for businesses. Currently, he said, there is a “groundswell of interest in (solar power),” and both the financial benefits associated with the systems and the environmentally beneficial process of harnessing solar help make it a popular option for many.

Solar, he said, is an “absolutely clean energy source” that doesn’t produce pollutants like traditional energy sources, such as coal. It’s “free energy from the sun,” Ennis said.

Currently, he said, incentives for investing in solar power include discounts on the systems themselves and tax credits. He said because Ohio utilities are mandated to provide 25% of their energy from alternative sources by 2025, they “support investment in solar.”

Ennis said solar power systems tend to spark the curiosity and interest of other local businesses, farmers and individuals when one is installed in a community.

“There’s a ripple effect,” he said. Steyer said he already is starting to notice that trend.