Cousins Randy and Stan utilize both geothermal and solar energy
Within Howard County, two cousins may make for the leading family in renewable energy.
Randy Ortman, the owner of Ortman Water and Drilling, and Stan Ortman, a local farmer and member of the Howard County Council, have both taken steps towards reducing their carbon footprint. And it’s not just for the energy savings.
“I think ... too many people worry about short term,” said Randy. “Long term for them is five or 10 years. You talk to the Japanese, and long term is 50 or 100 years or longer. I think too many people in this country, politicians in particular, think short term. If it’s less than 20 years I consider it short term. You need to be thinking long term. What can we do to conserve the resources we have for future generations and to protect those resources?”
As far as short term goes, Randy refers to the start-up costs of installing solar arrays and geothermal equipment in homes and businesses. These costs can dissuade many prospective users. However, dividends can be achieved.
In December 2014 Randy’s switch to cleaner energy for his business began with the installation of more energy efficient fluorescent lighting fixtures. In total, about 168 light bulbs in the facility were switched over to the more energy-efficient variant.
“We had an analysis done, and they thought we would save roughly 30 to 35 percent on our electrical bill just by changing light fixtures,” said Stan. “Most of these burn 40 to 50 hours a week. We’ve changed to LED, even the other incandescent bulbs. We don’t get quite the light output in those, but these LEDs, two bulbs is brighter than four fluorescents.”
By August the following year, Randy’s solar panels were installed and fully functional in September. So, for about eight months the solar array has been supplying energy to Ortman Water and Drilling. Thus far, the results are positive.
“Our electrical bill was averaging about $1,200 a month,” said Randy. “We had one month with nothing, and now it’s running between $200 and $400 a month. That’s with the LEDs and the solar.”
Cost savings with a solar array begin to take effect after a period of time. Some months see less energy produced due to cloud cover. For sunnier time periods, excess energy is gathered, and those cost savings are rolled over, making up the less productive periods. According to Randy, one of the most productive months is February because of a combination of factors. Not only is it typically sunnier then, but it’s also not as hot. Warm temperatures cause the arrays to not function at such a high level.
Randy anticipates the system will pay for itself in seven to nine years thanks in part to the 30 percent tax credit available to solar energy users. Long term, he hopes to counteract rising electric rates.
Stan’s system has been in place for a slightly longer period of time.
Production began on the solar array at his home in 2013, and he just completed his second year of creating solar energy.