Bobby’s Bama: Going green in Greenhill

The Johnsons use solar power in Greenhill community.
The Johnsons use solar power in Greenhill community.

GREENHILL, AL (WAFF) - Can you imagine going green to the point where you don't depend on any public utility?  One family in the Greenhill community is on their way thanks to a dad who's done his homework on solar power.

On just about any rural road you can see power and telephone lines that connect a home to the outside world... except at the Johnson home.

"Me and my brother got to studying solar.  And I got on the internet and saw different sites about solar," said homeowner, Rickey Johnson.

All of his studies led him to experiment with solar panels for two years.  He worked with a solar technician who inspected what Johnson installed at his new "green" home - 30 solar panels.

All the energy that goes into the solar panels makes its way to 44 batteries that actually store the power that runs the house.

"All of my panels charge those batteries, and the house runs off if it 24 hours a day," Johnson said.

He said last year there were 18 days with no sun, but they can still pull "some" power, and the batteries back it up.  There are other backups like a gas hot water heater and an unusual heater, which stays cool to the touch on top.

"They make these pellets out of saw dust and they call it going green because they are recycling something that's waste and it provides heat," he said.

He said it's a clean burn with no smoke and no residue in the house.

The heater means Johnson gets a state tax break, and the solar panels mean a federal break.

There are gauges inside to let him know about the power usage - even on a hot, summer day.

"The house is so well designed, it don't take nothing to cool it," he said.

Johnson said to build a system like this today would be about $16,000. In the two years the family has been here, he's saved about $6,000. But he says you need a solar technician because it can be dangerous.

The Johnsons could easily harness enough energy to sell the excess back to TVA, breaking the ties that bind in Bobby's Bama.

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