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Solar panels proving worthwhile investment for Malone couple

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MALONE — Many people enjoy a bright, sunny day, especially in the winter, when many days in the north country are gray and overcast. But few in the area have the same reason to be pleased over cloudless skies as two Webster Street residents.

It’s been more than four years since Carol and Neil McClain decided to have 18 solar panels installed on the roof of their home. And, according to them, the only downside to the panels is having to brush the snow off following a storm.

The McClains noted that they have been in favor of alternative energy for awhile.

“All alternative energy makes sense,” Mrs. McClain said.

But the two decided to invest in solar panels after being out of town for a couple of weeks in the winter, but still receiving an electric bill for about $200.

The McClains said they invested about $10,000 in the panels, which were installed by Crest Solar Power Solutions, based in Keeseville. This was the cost to them to buy the system after they obtained funding through New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and some other incentives.

The panels did not take long to install, the McClains said, noting that workers were done in a few days.

Mrs. McClain said that from around April through October, the couple pays only about $17 for a hookup fee to the grid.

“We get a minimum of 60 percent of our electric from the solar panels,” she said. “These are conservative” numbers.

During the winter, when it’s not as sunny, Mrs. McClain said, electric bills are half of what they were before the panels were installed.

“It’s a myth when people say, well, they’re not viable up here, because they are,” she said. “It works up here. It works well.”

Mr. McClain noted the panels actually work best when it’s cold outside.

“Cold, clear winter days are best for producing,” he said.

The panels are guaranteed to last 25 years, Mr. McClain said. He said as long as they are maintained, they can last longer.

Both said that so far, the panels have not needed any repairs and can withstand the harshest north country weather, including strong winds and heavy snow.

However, when the panels are covered with snow, they do not produce, they said. Sometimes the couple will brush the snow off, but a lot of the time the panels warm up enough and the snow or ice melts, they said.

“For the most part it falls off,” Mrs. McClain said.

They said this has been the only negative aspect of the panels; they haven’t damaged the house and they don’t make any noise.

While they were able to purchase their solar panels, Mrs. McClain said, the leasing option that has been brought up in the community recently is also viable.

“If you can save 20 percent, that’s a big savings,” she said, referring to the projected amount that could be taken off of heating bills through a lease.

Though the McClains may be some of the only area residents to have solar panels on their house now, much interest has been shown in the alternative energy source recently. The town of Malone recently voted in favor of having solar panels installed on the roofs of several municipal buildings to offset the town’s energy costs.

The Malone Chamber of Commerce also recently held a public forum regarding the benefits and costs of the panels for residents and businesses.

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