Solar Energy Gains Recognition As a Viable Alternative for Rural Property Owners

May 01, 2020

Solar Energy is the wave of the future for rural property owners...

Solar Energy Gains Recognition As a Viable Alternative

Country living is attractive to many individuals for various reasons and one of those reason is often independence. Customers contact me after looking through the various United Country land listings wanting to chat about their plans and schedule a tour of a their potential new property. It often starts out that they want land to explore, grow food, hunt with family, and enjoy the nature and wildlife. The next thing buyers typically are looking for is a place to go to avoid the inherent restrictions that come with living in urban areas around larger amounts of people. City ordinances, home owners associations, traffic and parking fees all have their need in society to help things run smoothly when people live in close proximity; however they do provide a certain level of restrictions to everyday life. It is understandable that people look for country properties to retire to on a daily, weekly, or intermittent basis. One thing that is hard to avoid however the reliance on energy and specifically electricity. So it is no wonder that the opportunity often comes up where a buyer is planning on installing a solar electric system on either a new build or retrofitting an existing home. Though the upfront cost that can be significant, the long term effect it can have on your energy bill can make the pursuit worthwhile over time.

As a quality real estate agent serving the rural communities in Missouri, when I have clients asking me about certain specialty services, like installing a solar system, I refer to an extensive network of rural service providers to help answer my clients and my own questions. One such specialist is Mr. Boone Lee.  He is a representative with Solar Sam, a company that helps rural landowners and commercial property owners take advantage of the cost savings and helps them appropriately install solar electrical systems. Solar Sam handles the entire process in house from consultation, permitting, and install.  The following is a list of questions and answers I had with Boone Lee regarding solar systems.

Derek: What are the general costs of setting up a solar system?

Boone: After going solar there are many steps in the process to get to a final up and running system. Lots of upfront paperwork from engineering to permitting and working with the utility companies to coordinate the net-metering agreement. Individual systems are very customized to your exact utility needs so project costs look very different to most families, it all falls back on how much solar you need to cover your yearly needs. On that note there are zero out of pocket cost to go solar. When you go solar you are trading your utility bill for a monthly investment back into your property.

Derek: Is there re-wiring needed on an existing home and is there a cost difference between installing solar on a new build versus a pre-existing home?

Boone: Houses generally don't need to be rewired as long as the home is up to code. At the end of the day the utility company has to sign off on the solar project. If they feel there is a risk to their grid from a faulty wired house they might require some upgrades before signing off on the project. There is no cost difference between a new construction install and installing on a pre-existing structure. The hard part about new construction projects is the lack of usage history, meaning we really don't know how much energy the home or business will need, it's hard to size a system off of sqft because it also falls back on the individual’s lifestyle. We all know that person that keeps it at 68 degrees in the summer and 74 in the winter. Usage history is very important to properly sizing a system.

Derek: Is it possible to run a complete electric home off solar? Or will it need supplemented with gas and public electric?

Boone: I can almost guarantee I can provide a 100% offset solar system on an all electric house. Gas is nice in the case of a power outage for heating and cooking purposes.

Derek: How important is site selection for an installation?

Boone: Solar panel location is detrimental to panel efficiency. South facing panels with zero shade at a 30 degree pitch is going to produce at maximum capacity. Never set up a north facing panel. A ground mount system is really good for rural projects to avoid big trees in the yard. I sell mostly ground mount projects around central Missouri; since we have a lot of large trees.

Derek: what are some of the law/ regulatory considerations for going solar?

Boone: There are not a lot of laws or regulations on going solar. The utility company is still going to have their restrictions. In Missouri we are not allowed to build out a system over 106% of your usage history. At the end of the day the utility company doesn't want you making money off of them if Missouri becomes a buy back state. We also have to adhere to all county and city building codes.

Derek: Any Panels that don’t go on a roof or maybe less obtrusive looking?

Boone: We sell a black on black very clean looking rooftop system. Our ground mount panels are a little bigger and can be placed anywhere within 100' of your electric meter in case you are not a big fan of the rooftop look. Rooftop systems are a little less expensive because of the extra ground mount racking that is installed.

Derek: How do you see solar advancing in the future?

Boone: I see solar being a very common thing in the future, as utility cost continue to rise we will be seeing much higher monthly utility cost. By going solar you’re investing in your own power instead of renting your power from a coop. As solar becomes more popular around the Midwest we will see homes being appraised higher with solar and lots of resale perks with s residential solar system. Solar is the greenest energy on the market, I believe we should all do our part to take care of this planet, why not do that and save money at the same time?

I asked Boone a few question to help everyone get an idea of what is involved with installing solar.

Derek: What maintenance is needed and how long does a solar system last?

Boone: Solar takes almost zero maintenance. We do suggest an annual cleaning of the panels to keep them as productive as possible to see a faster return on your investment. The best thing about solar is there are no moving parts to a system. As long as the panels are taken care of and kept out of the shade of vegetation we are in good shape!

Derek: Are solar panels covered under homeowner insurance plans?

Boone: After a solar system is installed and signed off the homeowner is responsible for letting their homeowners insurance company know they went solar. Solar systems will be covered by insurance in the event of a natural disaster. Our warranties only cover solar panel production not damages to the panel. Thanks again Derek for this opportunity to get this information out there for our Missouri neighbors to see.

If you contact Boone Lee at Solar Sam he will be glad to get you headed in the right direction for your new solar setup for your country property and on your way to energy savings. However, if you are still in the market for a rural property, there is another way to land yourself a slick solar setup.  Buy one with a solar system already installed!

United Country offers numerous specialty property groups with our listing portfolios. Lake homes, vineyards, farmhouses, survival properties, and ranches all of which you can find the potential options that have solar electrical systems already in place. AS a buyer this gets you one step closer to the energy savings and a little independence form an electrical bill. If you happen upon a listing that has solar already you don’t have to worry about finding the initial upfront expense, no time spent obtaining permits and appropriate sign offs, and most importantly you can see exactly how the system is saving the owners every month. They should be able to provide you their monthly energy usage and savings for the prior months. No guessing on how impactful the system will be.

Before I sign off I wanted to summarize the experience of a client, who is selling a beautifully restored farm house on more than 200 acres in Chariton County Missouri. He combined closed cell foam insulation, among other advanced utility systems, with the solar panels installed on the roof. His advice for someone exploring solar is to work with a reputable company and work closely with the representative to understand your needs and energy usage requirement. There are also internet resources to help you determine the amount of energy needed in your area. Also, don’t forget to check with your electrical companies for any rebates and tax incentives that may be offered, As far as the effect on his electrical bill? On the highest energy usage months his bill is a whopping $5 dollars!! And if you are looking to get completely off grid, Boone said with the right setup you can go completely solar with in-wall electric storage systems and no need to be tapped into the area electrical company.

It is not hard to recognize the advantages of a solar system if you are willing to invest in the upfront costs. And if not you can surely find a property with an already operating system. IF you are on the hunt to find your freedom and don’t want to worry about an electrical bill give a United Country agent a call. And if you have a rural property set up with a system and are wanting to be united with a quality United Country buyers we will be happy to get to work for you.

Derek Foland