Campaigning for Trustee of
Overton Power District

Hello, Friends!

 

The past week has been campaign busy. I was invited to a presentation and discussion of home solar arrays last Tuesday presented by the company who installed a solar array for the host. Two representatives of the Overton Power District were there and I made some contributions to the discussion. It's great to meet people interested in home solar arrays, and to see them springing up throughout the District.

 

On Thursday, I attended a candidates meeting sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the 10th Anniversary Open House at Mesa View Hospital, and a candidates meeting in Bunkerville.

 

I'm also having meet-and-greet events at homes of supporters. If you would like to attend one, please let me know.

 

I hope to see some of you at the upcoming candidate events:

Chamber of Commerce Lunch, Oct 8 at 11:30 a.m. at Eureka Casino Resort;

Candidates Forum with Press, Oct 8, 5-9 p.m. at Wolf Creek Golf Course; 

Sun City Candidates Forum, Oct 13 5-7 p.m. at Sun City Recreation Center.


Power Plays

I have begun reading "Power Plays", a book subtitled "The U.S. Presidency, Electric Cooperatives, and the Transformation of Rural America". The author, Ted Case, was a presenter at the Nevada Rural Electric Association annual meeting I attended on September 11. Co-ops were the main medium for electrifying the farms of rural America, and the book shows how much politics and Presidents affected co-ops, and how much co-ops influenced politics.

 

Electric Co-ops were first authorized by Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order signed May 11, 1935, establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). As governor of New York, FDR had tried to establish hydroelectric plants on the St. Lawrence River, but these did not come to fruition until 1958. Besides his New York experience, he knew of the need for electricity in rural areas through his experiences near his cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, and his visits to the Tennessee Valley related to forming the Tennessee Valley Authority. At the time the REA was authorized, only 10 percent of rural farms had electricity, and only 2 percent in the Tennessee Valley. Farmers were really suffering.

 

Throughout his administration, Roosevelt had to fight numerous political battles to form and maintain the REA and co-ops. The REA was strongly supported by a trade organization, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and strongly opposed by for-profit electric companies. The for-profit companies had little or no interest in rural America, even though they were eligible for the REA low interest rate loans. The main burden fell to co-ops. The 1944 Pace Act set REA interest rates at 2 percent, and 40,000 new customers were being connected to co-op lines each month by the time of Roosevelt's death on April 10, 1945, in Warm Springs.

 

President Harry Truman was also a great supporter of the REA and co-ops. He had grown up on a farm with no electricity and knew the hardships. Roosevelt had used rural electrification as a major campaign issue to gain rural votes, and Truman did likewise in 1948. He made a major barnstorming railroad trip to rural parts of the country, especially in the mid-west and west. The rural vote was a major contributor to Truman's re-election, and embarrassing the newspapers that published headlines of "Dewey Defeats Truman". By the end of Truman's presidency, 85 percent of American farms were electrified.

 

Eisenhower was not a great supporter of co-ops, although he gave them lip service when politically expedient. By early 1959, nearly 96 percent of the country was electrified. Eisenhower felt that the need for the REA and government support of co-ops was over. He was invited to speak before a national convention of the NRECA, attended by over 7,000 supporters of the REA and co-ops. He proposed raising the REA interest rate from 2 percent to high enough for the government to at least recover the cost of the loans. Political turmoil ensued, with legislation passed, then vetoed by Ike, and then the veto almost being overturned. Despite the veto being narrowly upheld, the rate was not raised. Ironically, Ike lived his last years at his farm in Gettysburg, Virginia, which was served by an electrical co-op.

 

President Kennedy was a supporter of the REA. But more on that later, when I finish reading the book and have more time and space to write.


Solar Energy

 

On Wednesday, September 24, I gave a presentation on solar energy at Sun City. I discussed and showed pictures of several different types of utility-scale solar generation plants, and home rooftop solar arrays. Then I discussed costs and payback of solar arrays for homeowners. I'll give a shorter version of the talk at the League of Women Voters meeting, 10-11 a.m. on October 11 at Highland Manor.


There were questions from the audience about the cost of an array, the arrangements between Overton Power District and solar customers, and how long it takes to recover one's investment and is it worth it. The answer to all of these questions is "It depends".

 

The initial cost depends on the roof, the size of the array, panels, inverters and monitoring system, along with the contractor. Based on conversations with recent purchasers, a large array of 10 kW can be installed for about $30,000 to $33,000. A moderate array of 6 kW costs about $22,000 to $24,000. These are the costs before the federal tax credit of 30 percent and the OPD incentive of up to $2500. These incentives bring the net costs down to about $18,500 to $20,500 for 10 kW and $13,000 to $14,000 for a 6 kW array. Smaller arrays cost a bit more per Watt, mainly due to economy of scale and labor costs. Arrays with separate micro inverters for each panel cost a bit more than single-inverter systems.

 

The payback time, or time to recover the initial investment, depends on a lot of factors. Because OPD rates are so low, the time is longer than in Las Vegas, where rates are much higher. I estimate each kWh generated by an array to be worth about $0.85 for typical OPD customers.  This is about $960 per year for a 6 kW south-facing array, and $1600 for 10 kW. This gets an estimated payback time of 9 to 14 years, depending on the size, cost and direction of the array, electric usage of the homeowner, and how much electric rates increase over time.

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