Becoming likely the first business entity in DeSoto County to do so, the Southaven Chamber of Commerce has added a solar energy array and will use power from the sun to operate its building functions in the future.
Chamber officials invited community and business leaders to come to its 500 Main Street location on Friday, July 27 for a ribbon cutting and workshop on the advantages of solar energy.
There’s been a move in many parts of the country to use natural resources, such as wind or solar energy, as an alternative to electricity for power, but the move to solar has been slow to start in DeSoto County and North Mississippi.
The Southaven Chamber array was installed by Lightwave Solar of Nashville, Tennessee, led by President/CEO Chris Koczaja, who hopes DeSoto County residents and businesses will start to “warm” up more to the idea.
“We’ve been in business since 2006 and what we see here in the Southaven area is an opportunity with the net metering and the programs available to show people how solar can not only impact the environment and impact the bottom line results for their business,” Koczaja said. “We’ve worked with the Southaven Chamber and have put an array up on the Chamber building to show people not only how an array looks but the Chamber now will be able to tell people how it works.”
Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the power grid. A solar customer with an array may generate more electricity than the facility uses during daylight hours.
Solar arrays and energy use have become more common and as the cost of equipment and installation has come down, companies are more clearly seeing the financial advantages of its use, Koczaja said.
“Solar has come many steps even in just the last 2-3 years to the point where not only the technology but the price of the technology has reached a point where it can compete with normal generation sources,” Koczaja pointed out. “We see a lot more people looking to solar not only for the sustainable aspects but there’s actually financial benefits for doing that because of where the industry has come and the availability of materials and supplies.”
Both Koczaja and Chamber Executive Director Carmen Kyle said the actual installation of the array did not take much time to have completed.
“The array itself took a couple of days to set up and then we worked with the local utility which was very helpful in hooking it up and connecting it to their system,” Koczaja said, with Kyle adding, “The actual installation was seamless. These guys are just beyond professional. The craftsmanship, the quality, the customer service was top-notch.”
Koczaja added the impact on the Chamber’s electric bill should be substantial, even after one month.
“The array that is on the building will generate about 10,000 kilowatt hours a year for the Chamber over its life and that life expectancy is over 30 years,” Koczaja said.
“The projections are that we would cut our first electric bill in half,” added Kyle.
Businesses will also see savings when it comes to their tax bill.
“The biggest impact is with businesses because they can take 100 percent depreciation their first year,” said Koczaja. “They can also take 30 percent investment tax credit to cut the price of the overall system, so for a business they can see paybacks generally in the 7-8 year time frame.”
While the move provides direct financial benefits to the Southaven Chamber, Kyle hopes it may start to also give the business community another option to operate more efficiently.
“Using the sun as a resource for power is something we all should look at,” Kyle noted. “It’s a viable source for businesses. I think it’s a no-brainer for us.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.