Why I Went Solar features homes and businesses that have chosen to go solar. If you would like to feature your home or business in this column please email our Community Manager.
Occupation: Peter: retired Marketing Director; Susan: High School Science Teacher
City & State: Palatine, IL
What made you go solar?
As parents and grandparents who accept and take the science of climate change seriously, we felt a responsibility to change those parts of our lifestyle that contribute to this most serious of all global crises. Upon review of our lifestyle, we could see our energy consumption practices, both the source and the amount we use, were where we could make the greatest impact. While becoming more efficient is important, easy, and saves money, it wasn’t enough. The change to a clean energy source was the other side of the coin. Being located in a suburb of Chicago as well as the design and orientation of the back of our house (facing directly south) made solar the most logical and effective choice for us.
Besides the obvious environmental benefits of transitioning our individual use of energy from dirty to clean, the other motivating factors were that this transition is good for the local economy in that we used a local small business to sell and install the system as well as the national economy in that we specified that the equipment must be manufactured in the USA. This contributed to job growth and keeping all our energy dollars in the US. This is important for national security and reducing our dependence of foreign sources some of whom frankly hate us. Last but not least, while we entered the project expecting it to ultimately cost us more than just leaving our situation as is, it made us wealthier the day we flipped the switch due to the added value we placed on our home, the monthly savings we enjoy, and the sale of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), all of which add up to more than the out of pocket price we paid for the system.
How is your life different after you went solar?
Besides the wealth creation mentioned above and peace of mind that the change brings (see next section) which is extremely important, actually our home life has changed very little. I believe that is a major fear many people have about “going green”. They fear that life will change dramatically and be harder, more expensive, and less convenient. What they fail to realize is that this is 21st century technology not 18th century technology like coal. Some of the people who stand to benefit the most are miners and well workers who risk their health and lives to deliver fuel when their skills can be transitioned to safe, comfortable, and plentiful clean energy careers.
Personally because I am so happy with the results and benefits that I now speak to local groups and write about our experience. There are so many myths and misconceptions about solar technology and the industry doesn’t have the financial resources to communicate the real story unlike their competition who has resorted to making up stories (“clean coal”). This has proven to be immensely enjoyable and introduced me to so many interesting and interested people.
While we entered the project to make a statement that one can live more responsibly and economically, the unanticipated emotion that we experienced after the installation was one of liberation. We had always considered energy usage as something to be avoided if for no other reason than economic. Adding to that was the increasing important negative pollution and global warming issues that conventional energy usage contributes to. Now energy is our friend. When we flip on a light it doesn’t matter. While it is never advisable to waste anything, our energy use doesn’t cost us anything since the fuel is free and the equipment is paid for. We produce no pollution or greenhouse gases. We use no water and the land was already occupied by the house that the system rests on and we are not using up finite resources. We also do not need energy companies to threaten some of the most sensitive and beautiful places on earth in attempts to discover new sources of fuel or our military to fight wars and spend billions in maintaining access to foreign fuel sources.
What tips do you have for others who want to go solar?
Start looking into it. If not you, then who? If not now, then when? Climate change is a global imperative with each day that we emit more CO2 than the planet can handle the situation gets worse. We are handing our children for generations to come problems that we caused but they will have to pay for in more ways than just financially. If someone can’t go all in, start small and expand later…but start.
ASES will hold its annual National Solar Tour this fall where you can show your home, host a tour or go on a tour. If you’d like to donate to support ASES in its mission to promote solar, please click here. If you’d like to learn more about putting solar on your home or to find a local solar professional, click on the Find a Solar Installer Near You on the right side of ASES.org.