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Solar Open House - power and politics in rural Graves County
Graves County home has both active and passive solar features. The solar panels are at the far right.

Leslie and George McColgin's house in rural Graves County is a self supporting jewel tucked behind a hill on a one lane road.

The house, an eco friendly split level, looks out on a pond and a solar array. Out the front door is their small garden with tomatoes still ripening on the vine in the October sun.

The McColgins opened their solar home to the public to share their passion for sustainable energy.

Below, Kyle Johnson, a representative of Harvest Solar Energy, was on hand to talk about the project. He answered numerous questions about the array, including how much it weighed, how much it cost and how robust it would be in a major storm.

Johnson said that the cost for this installation, $30,000, would be offset by the selling back into the grid of unused energy. Tax breaks exist for solar installations. George McColgin predicted that the project will pay for itself over the next 7-8 years. Compare that to standard heating and air conditioning systems that don't have the ability to produce power and don't pay for themselves.

The system, state of the art when built, is already being improved. Johnson said new solar panels would take up 40% less space than this one. Solar panels are getting lighter, cheaper and more efficient. Johnson has seen change in his time with the company and he anticipates more to come.

As far as how heavy the unit is, the weight is in tons because it has a steel framework to tilt it the recommended 30 degrees. A roof unit would weigh less because the frame is aluminum, a lighter but less sturdy material.

Leslie McColgin and Amanda Groves of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, spoke at length of House Bill 227. The bill would cut the reimbursement to solar homeowners from utilities. According to Groves, it would have damaged the budding solar industry in Kentucky. The bill was supported by corporate utilities who lobbied for its passage. Groves said it went down in defeat on the last day of the session.

"It will be back." McColgin, shown at left, predicted.

Candidates were invited to visit. Despite a busy schedule of events in Graves County - breakfasts, barbecues and church functions, several candidates were invited to speak.

Candidate for Judge Executive Greg Higdon, at right, spoke to those gathered. His opponent Jesse Perry didn't show up. Kentucky House #2 candidate Charlotte Goddard briefly spoke of her commitment to solar as a way to help reduce utility costs for everyone. Her opponent, Richard Heath was present earlier at the open house. US House candidate Paul Walker spoke. Leslie McColgin said she tried unsuccessfully to invite Rep. Comer, the incumbent.

Solar power is not the end all answer to energy issues but Kyle Johnson said it is a vital piece. With a winter electric bill well below any they've ever had, one Graves County couple are in complete agreement.

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