Tuesday, June 22, 2010

See a Sunny Day in a Whole New Way: Solar Natural Capital!

You know we appreciate nature, and as a Florida girl I've always appreciated the sun. But this is a whole new level.

our house, with solar panels
Our house, with solar panels
This spring, we had 14 solar panels put in on our roof -- a 2.45 kW system. The system is designed to totally cover our electricity use, averaged over the year.

Because we started production during some of the longest days of the year, we've generated 126 more kilowatt hours of electricity than we've used. Meanwhile, 29 coal miners have died in West Virginia and catastrophic, heartbreaking amounts of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. I can't even describe how good it feels to be doing our tiny little part to move toward energy independence.

Our installation company (Astrum Solar) has the slogan, "See a sunny day in a whole new way." We didn't realize how true that was until we were up and running. Sure enough, on a beautiful sunny day recently Matt said to me with delight, "this is gonna be a 10 kWh day." (He obsessively checks this site to watch our production-- you're welcome to watch too!)

If you own a sunny roof, the incentives right now are pretty amazing. Most solar companies in the area will come and do a free site assessment and estimate for you; Astrum also has a cool calculator. In our case, after all is said and done with tax credits and renewable energy credits, we will pay only about a third of the cost of the system (about $7K out of $21K). With some ongoing credits, we'll have made back the cost in about 7 or 8 years. After that, we should have at least 20 years of free electricity. That's the kind of thing most people are talking about when they use the term natural capital.

Don't own, or not ready to make the plunge? If you live in DC or MD, you can sign up for wind energy -- it's actually cheaper than PEPCO's coal-and-nuclear energy right now (that was what we did for years before taking this step). Perhaps you'll see a windy day in a whole new way!