By Heather Lusk
From sidewalk level, passersby may not even notice that within a square block of Zionsville’s village, three of the nine homes are powered by solar electricity. Nearby, neighbors are planning to instal solar panels in the future as well.
Bob McKinney, president of Johnson Melloh Solutions, which installed some of the panels, said he’s noticed a yearly increase in residential solar panel installation despite Indiana’s Senate Bill 309 to eliminate net metering, which required utility companies to pay solar users for excess energy created by their solar panels.
“You could actually sit outside on a really sunny day and watch the meter go backwards,” village resident Mervyn Cohen said.
The benefit of net metering for homeowners is the ability to more quickly pay for the panels, which the Cohens estimate cost $30,000 after tax rebates. The bill means homeowners installing new panels will be reimbursed at a lower amount moving forward.
The Cohens became interested in solar options when their church undertook a solar panel project. They installed the first set of panels in their home six years ago. “We’re pretty green in lots of ways,” Janet Cohen said.
The Cohens expect that the additional panels will make their home completely efficient.
McKinney doesn’t believe the legislation will impact the future of residential solar panel installation.
“Our pace of solar (installation) in the first quarter is exceeding the last quarter of 2017,” he said.
McKinney said residential solar energy is only in the very early stages of growth in Indiana.
“We don’t think our residential market has even begun to hit the tipping point,” he said.
As of 2017, more than 1,100 homes in Indiana had solar PV systems, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Local contractors estimate 20 of those homes are in Zionsville.