EcoTrack 11: Prof practices what he teaches via solar home

Dr. Al Compaan and his wife use only about $20 of electricity per year.
Dr. Al Compaan and his wife use only about $20 of electricity per year.
On a sunny day, glass panels made right in the Toledo area absorb photons from the sun and generate electricity for Compaan's Spencer Township home.
On a sunny day, glass panels made right in the Toledo area absorb photons from the sun and generate electricity for Compaan's Spencer Township home.

TOLEDO -- One local family is "going green" 365 days a year, reports News 11's Shelley Brown in this EcoTrack 11 report.

Dr. Al Compaan, a University of Toledo professor of physics, is practicing what he teaches by owning a solar home. On a sunny day, glass panels made right in the Toledo area absorb photons from the sun and generate electricity for his Spencer Township home.

"That generates D-C electricity that then goes to electronics in the basement, which generates A-C electricity, and that's exactly the same as what we use from Toledo Edison," Compaan explains.

The panels that cover more than half of his back roof were generating 4,000 watts of electricity, though Compaan says he and his wife may use only about 1,000 watts.

"So the rest of it, 3,000 watts of electricity will now flow out of the house through the electric meter, make it run backwards so we get a credit for the electricity that goes out on the grid and then that can be used by neighbors or businesses in the area," Compaan says.

Also, instead of going to the gas station to fuel his '87 Chevy pickup, Compaan charges it with excess solar panel electricity. Using 20 six-volt batteries, he commutes to the University of Toledo.

After 10 years, he says he's saved 1,600 gallons of gas, more than 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide -- and a lot of gas money!

And get this: his electric bill for one year is just about $20.

"Electricity prices are probably going to continue to come up, but the price for renewable electricity is gradually coming down," Compaan says.

A $40,000 investment three-and-a-half years ago has paid off, Compaan says, noting that competition and improved technology are making this cleaner mode of electricity more affordable.

Posted by KO