When R. Stephen and E. Lee Henderson, co-owners of Henderson Land Investment Company, decided to renovate their Urbana location at 606 Scioto St. in 2007, Mrs. Henderson threw out the idea of turning an ordinary fabric awning into an energy-producing, money-saving awning. What might have seemed like a futuristic idea eight years ago turned into reality last week when crews finished outfitting the building with 27 solar panels, nine of which were used to construct a solar awning, while the other 18 were anchored to the roof.
“We have an awning at our other office (104 S. Springfield St. in St. Paris) that is just fabric, and I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could have an awning that was solar,” Mrs. Henderson said. “I let it go because at that point in time, it wasn’t possible. I kept thinking about it and kept considering fabric awnings, but I also kept thinking it needs to be solar.”
As the years passed and the sun continued to beat through the five full-length windows and other smaller windows that make up the front of the building, Mrs. Henderson never gave up on her dream of “turning the sun into an advantage instead of an irritant.”
Everything falls into place
In order for Mrs. Henderson’s dream of installing a solar awning to take shape, two things were needed – someone to design it and funding to pay for it.
Unbeknownst to her at the time the idea was born, Mrs. Henderson’s solar awning project ended up getting off the ground thanks to her son, Brett, who took a job as a project manager for Solar Power & Light in Miamisburg and decided to bring his mother’s idea to life.
As for funding the $21,000 project, the Hendersons got the financial assistance needed to move forward earlier this year when they were one of 10 recipients of a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Rural Energy for America Program. Available to small business owners and farmers who wish to install a renewable energy system, the grant covered 25 percent of the Hendersons’ project.
Mrs. Henderson said, along with the approximately $5,000 grant from the USDA, the business will receive a $14,000 federal investment tax credit.
Along with the installation of 27 solar panels, Mrs. Henderson said the project, designed to generate enough electricity to power the entire building, also involved a lot of electrical work centered around the installation of an inverter, which will convert the solar power into usable 12-volt electricity.
While the system has begun collecting solar power, it won’t be converted into usable electricity until sometime in early January, Mrs. Henderson said.
The benefits of such a project, she added, are two-fold.
“For us, it’s basically free energy,” Mrs. Henderson said, noting the business will save anywhere from $100 to $140 a month in energy costs. “Once you pay for the project, it’s free energy for in the ballpark of 40 years. The chances of me living 40 more years are unlikely, so then you have to put it into perspective as to the main reasons why we are doing this project, which is for future generations.”
For the Hendersons, the future is their 13 grandchildren, one of whom, Ryder, was born a few weeks ago.
“We are now naming this the Ryder Solar Project because we are doing this for future generations so that they will hopefully have clean air to breathe,” Mrs. Henderson said.
Having seen her eight-year dream come to light, Mrs. Henderson is hopeful other business owners will follow her lead in one way or another.
“I believe that every business that generates income has a responsibility to make a positive impact in the community,” she said. “Making a positive difference is what it is all about, and this project is one way we can do that. For other businesses out there, if you have a project in mind, just do it.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.