Oklahoma man demonstrates possibilities of solar power

Choctaw resident Jim Stober is embracing the benefits of solar power to cut his utility costs.
by Jay F. Marks Published: October 12, 2012
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Stober said solar panels are tough enough to withstand anything Mother Nature throws at them — short of “catastrophic hail” the size of a grapefruit. If that happens, homeowners' insurance covers the cost of replacing damaged panels.

Stober insists solar is a viable energy source for anyone who can afford it.

“It doesn't matter where you put it,” he said. “It works just as well in Alaska as it does in Arizona. It just depends on the length of the day.”

More daylight equals more sunshine to turn into electricity, he said.

Data from the National Renewable Energy Lab indicates the southwestern United States is home to the country's best solar energy resources, with much of Oklahoma in a zone capable of producing at least 5 watt-hours per square meter a day. The best areas in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico can produce more than 6.8 watt-hours.

Oklahoma Energy Secretary Mike Ming said the state has a “surprisingly large” physical solar resource, “but the economics for utility scale solar are very challenging compared with our wind for renewable power.

“It is a resource we are keeping our eye on as technology improves and costs decrease,” Ming said.

Assessing the benefits

Stober's system can be monitored via Internet, he said, with data about how much electricity is generated by each of his home's 30 solar panels.

Last month his system generated 753 kilowatts of electricity.

Stober and his wife used 1,849 kilowatts of electricity from Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., while selling 195 kilowatts from his solar panels back to the utility company. That left his electric bill for the last week of August and the first three weeks of September at $141.

He estimated his solar panels allow him to save about $100 to $150 a month, a figure that will rise now that the pool is shut down for the year.

Stober also said his solar hot water heater has cut down on his propane use. He used to have to refill his propane tank every six month. Now it is only every 18 months.

The average OG&E residential customer uses about 1,100 kilowatt hours of electricity per month.

Stober said he expects solar technology to continue to improve, making it possible for cheaper panels to generate more electricity.

His system, which is two years old, includes panels capable of generating about 5.25 kilowatts. Newer panels can generate up to 7.5 megawatts.

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by Jay F. Marks
Energy Reporter
Jay F. Marks has been covering Oklahoma news since graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1996. He worked in Sulphur and Enid before joining The Oklahoman in 2005. Marks has been covering the energy industry since 2009.
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