By Phil Levin
Local developers are reconsidering solar panel installations as prices drop and energy efficiencies rise.
The projects were previously prohibitively expensive as pricey installations could take years to generate enough energy to offset their cost. Commercial arrays can now pay for themselves in as few as five years.
"If you are going to be owning the building for ten years or more, you're going to recoup those costs and the savings will keep going another 15 plus years after that," said Full Spectrum Solar Founder Burke O'Neal.
His group installs the arrays on residential and commercial buildings. They recently set up 117 panels above a new mixed-use apartment building in Shorewood Hills called Arbor Crossing.
The panels will produce energy when the sun is out to power common area utilities like lighting in hallways and the garage. In the middle of the day the solar array might generate more energy than those circuits need, causing the Madison Gas and Electric meter to spin backwards.