Local people generating their own power

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Jason Thomasson

CALLOWAY COUNTY, Ky. - It's the ultimate 'role reversal' everyone would love; every month the power company pays you!

A growing number of people are looking to the sun for power, according to local solar panel installers.  You can either go 'off the grid.'  That's where you generate your own power that's stored on a battery.  Or, stay on the grid and sell the power you produce back to TVA.

A local man says his system cost about $37,000.  He'll get most of that back in grants and tax credits, plus TVA agreed to pay him nine cents per kilowatt hours for the next ten years.

He's confident this investment will pay big dividends.

Tucked away behind Toyota of Murray, you'll find something you usually don't see on a car lot:  a huge solar panel.  It actually has 208 individual panels and since it was put up in December of last year, it's generated enough power to power three big football stadiums for a day.

Toyota is doing this as part of a 'go green' initiative, but you can do it too.

As the sun beats down on a sixth generation family farm, Tim Lax is doing something his ancestors likely never imagined.

"I've decided to take a chance on it," Lax said.

Todd Powell and Paul Key with Sunway Energy are hard at work atop Lax's new building.

Lax expects the same sun that causes these plants to grow to generate a different kind of green.

"It's not going to totally cover our electric bill but it's going to help offset it," Key said.

Key says solar panels are cheaper than ever and TVA is willing to pay.

"Several years ago a system would never pay for itself," Key said.

Key said now things are different, that's what Lax is banking on.

"My system will be paid off in a little over three years, I think," Lax said.

Powell said it's not the heat that generates power. Actually heat makes these panels less efficient.  Sunlight is what these panels need.  On a cold, sunny day, this could produce more power that it would on a hot day.

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