Jeff Ingram’s solar panels in the back of his art gallery show visitors how easy it is to use the technology.
He installed the five solar panels and generator at North Water Street Gallery in Kent himself. The energy flows from the small panels outside into the gallery and ends up in four batteries with outlets, which he can plug any appliance into. The solar panels power everything in the gallery, from the sound system to track lights.
Ingram chose an off-grid system, which means when power goes out in the city, the gallery still has electricity.
He installed the system in 2013 when he received a grant from Jim Burris. The system is from New Jersey-based company Earthtech, which sells single panels or kits with five or 10 panels and a generator. His kit cost $3,500.
“There’s a lot more companies that install solar panels with the net metering because of the tax credit,” Ingram said. “There’s not too many that do the off-the-grid systems. I set this up myself basically. Me and a friend. That’s how easy it is.”
“You have to learn the angle of the sun,” he said. “You have to watch how the sun crosses the sky during the day, so you know where to place them. We had to place ours on the very edge. You have to know which angle to put it at to get the most direct sun.”
Ingram said in the summer the panels produce electricity from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The brackets on the panels are adjustable, so when the sun is lower on the horizon in the wintertime he can adjust them to get direct sunlight. He said the panels get so warm they melt the snow in the winter.
Ingram has also installed LED track lighting in the art gallery. The entire system uses as much energy as one of the old lights in his former gallery space. He said he chose to install solar panels to save money and to set an example for businesses in Kent.
“I wanted to set the standard for what a green business is,” Ingram said. “They have a lot of talk about what a green economy and business is, but it really starts with each individual doing what they can, changing their lights to LED, using efficient appliances, buying local food.”
Ingram is a volunteer at Kent Natural Foods Co-op, a community-based natural foods store in Kent. He said buying local food reduces trucking and buying organic reduces petroleum use.
“There’s a million ways to reduce the carbon economy.”
Ingram said he’ll be interested to see the changes in the technology of solar batteries. His batteries are big and bulky, but with advancing technology, they’re becoming lighter and more efficient. He actually used the batteries to power the projector at Standing Rock Cultural Arts Earth Day film festival this year, he said.
“Just like everyone’s laptop and phones, we need a battery that lasts more than six hours,” he said.
Solar panels also are becoming lighter and easier to install.
“Solar panels are getting lighter to the point they’re almost as thin as a sheet of film and they’re putting those on rooftops,” Ingram said. “I imagine one day they’ll have ones that attach on your phone and just charge your phone or the batteries in your camera.”
Reporter Kelly Maile can be reached at 330-541-9416, firstname.lastname@example.org or @KellyJMaile.