Suffolk motel goes solar

Published 9:03 pm Friday, May 5, 2017

The owner of a motel on Portsmouth Boulevard says he is saving thousands on his power bill since installing more than 220 solar panels.

Ray Patel owns the Studios 4 Less motel, as well as several others in nearby cities. He first looked into solar power about three years ago for his home in Chesapeake. After he saw the results there, he set about getting solar power for his businesses as well.

The panels were installed last fall, Patel said. He has seen a reduction on his power bill of about 20 percent in December through February, which is not the most ideal time of year for generation of solar power. He’ll likely see even better results during the summer, when estimates show the panels will actually be generating more power than the motel uses.

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“It has gone down,” Patel said on a rainy, gloomy Friday. “Although, on days like this, it doesn’t produce anything,” he added, gesturing out the window at the sky.

The total cost to install the panels on the Suffolk motel was about $153,000. Patel said the solar energy company he used says he’ll break even on his investment in seven years. The panels have a 30-year lifespan.

That calculation includes the federal solar tax credit, which allows residents and business owners to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from their federal taxes.

“If the federal government would increase that, probably more people would put them on,” Patel said. “It’s going to help me with my taxes.”

As the hotel sits on a major entry and exit point into Suffolk, many curious people have stopped and asked about the solar panels, Patel said. Many of them are surprised by how expensive it is.

But to Patel, it’s worth it. His building sits at an ideal angle to catch the sunlight.

“A lot of it depends on where your property faces and how much sunlight is directed to those panels,” he said.

Patel plans on doing them next on his property on South Military Highway. That’s a bigger building and will cost about $250,000. But more panels mean more energy production.

“The more you can put on, the more you can make,” he said.