JOHN RUSSELL

The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - From his backyard, Bruce Pfeffer can look up and see 32 solar panels mounted on the roof of his ranch house -- panels that soak up the sunshine and convert it into electricity.

When his solar system generates more electricity than he uses, the excess flows back into the grid for use elsewhere, and Pfeffer gets credits on his electric bill from Indianapolis Power & Light Co. The electric meter on his house keeps score.

“It was very cool at the beginning to watch the dial stop and spin backwards,” Pfeffer said.

He and his wife, Amy Beth Kressel, use the electricity they generate to help power their house, located off Spring Mill Road on the Northwest side, and fuel their Think City two-seat electric car in their garage.

The system was expensive, about $30,000, or about as much as a new car. And so far, the savings are relatively modest, a few hundred dollars a year. So even with federal tax credits and a small grant from IPL, the system will take decades to pay for itself.

But more and more people around Indiana are starting to generate their own electricity, motivated by environmental concerns and feelings of energy independence.

The arrangement is known as “net metering,” allowing customers to offset part of their energy costs and feed the excess back to the utility for credit.

From 2010 to 2011, the number of Indiana customers taking part in net metering rose from 199 to 298 -- a 50 percent increase, according to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

The maximum output from those renewable facilities increased by 136 percent, from 783 kilowatts to 1,852 kilowatts.

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