Here comes the sun: Solar energy puts money in their pockets

Friday, October 16, 2009

From an article by Tim Damos in the Baraboo News Republican:

Karen Mesmer used to get a bill in the mail from the electric company. Nowadays, she gets a check.

"Last year, when the stock market crashed, we were still getting paid, instead of losing money," said Mesmer. "The sun was still shining."

Mesmer’s property in the rural Town of Excelsior is home to six solar trackers, large poles with motored devices that rotate the solar panels atop them to follow the sun throughout the day.

Her business, Mesmer Solar, LLC, is one of three in central Sauk County recently established to take advantage of federal grant money.

Behind all three businesses is Gerd Muehllehner, a German native and solar power guru who says it’s possible to earn a 10 percent return on a ‘green’ investment.

"In Germany, every second house has solar, either for hot water or electricity," Muehllehner said.

After installing his first set of solar panels in 2006, Muehllehner learned that — aside from the government incentives available to individuals who go solar — grants are available to small businesses.

He partnered with Mesmer 50/50 to establish a business that could take advantage of the federal subsidy. He did the same with a friend in Rock Springs and his daughter, who lives nearby.

By filling out a form online and paying a $130 fee, they formed limited liability companies.

What do their companies do? They sell renewable energy to the power company.

That was enough to qualify all three businesses for an additional $20,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to install the solar equipment.