Going Solar, My Story
Beautiful Solar Roof Panels
Obainting Solar Energy: An Emotional Journey
I am thrilled with my rooftop solar energy system.
I can’t tell enough people, can’t put enough photos of it on social media, can’t stop walking to the playground behind my house to admire the 15 solar panels placed so precisely in three rows across my roof. Giddily, I watch the meter’s spinning dial showing how quickly the sun’s light is being converted to electricity. But my emotions during this journey weren’t always cupcakes and happy fireworks.
They were more like a roller coaster ride.
Leasing Seems Like a Good Idea
I live in a modest 1200 square foot house with a totally unshaded southern facing roof. Only a few months after moving in, I contacted a national solar leasing company. At first the representatives were totally positive, stating that the sunlight exposure was fantastic and her roof was wonderful. So, I signed the first batch of permissions for this company to perform the initial steps of inspecting my roof and checking local building code requirements
I broke into a happy dance. Using the sun’s gift of energy is something I had long wanted to do. It is right for the environment and for future generations, and leasing suited my budget. However, things quickly went south.
Wait - What Just Happened?
budget. However, things quickly went south.
After passing two of the qualifying inspections, the company suddenly changed its tune. They sent me an email stating that my new roof could not withstand the weight of their solar panels plus a heavy, wet snow. When I tried contacting them to ask what changes my roof would need to pass their needs, I met a stone wall. I would have considered spending some money to fix whatever this company felt was lacking, but I could never get an answer or clarification from anyone – no answer to my emails or voicemail messages – it was very unprofessional and downright rude. It was as if the company disappeared (or wanted her to disappear.)
My best guess is that they wanted some minimum amount of excess electric energy coming from my roof panels so that they could sell it and that they figured my roof was not going to make their secret quota. It’s rather disgusting. They weren’t open and honest with me.
In my region (south central Pennsylvania), the only other options are owning one’s own system. Due to finances, I put my plan to go solar on hold.
We All Feel the Increased Warming
I am personally committed to live green and make what changes I can. This is a value which is reinforced by my church. There are a few denominations which don’t pussy-foot around. They believe that making environmental changes in your lifestyle is equally as important as treating others fairly, being honest, and caring for those in need. Whenever I’d attend a service focusing on stewardship of the earth, in my heart I re-affirmed my goal to “one day” have solar panels. I was determined to reduce fossil fuel emissions as a cost of my energy use.
A few years passed and as we all know, the climate situation clearly worsened. Scientists amended the language of their descriptions, going from climate “warming” to “disruption” and then to “crisis.” Anyone with half a brain could see the connection between human activity and awful losses of glaciers, flooding of island nations, and severe weather occurring with exponential frequency.
For example, insurance companies develop models for natural disasters and the probability of them happening. A severe storm and flood designated by insurance statisticians as a “500-year-flood” is expected to happen only once every 500 years (give or take a few years.) Yet, cities around the world have been deluged with that level of severe flooding as often as three times in a five-year period! Hurricanes now are frequently reaching the Category 5 level of strength and severity.
However, I didn’t need those reports to know that the climate is noticeably warming.
I am a gardener. I’ve been seeing that each year I can put out tender seedlings earlier and earlier without a “last frost” destroying them. Although this delights the gardener part of me, it frightens my human desire for survival of this beautiful world.
Deciding to Try Again
More and more intensely, the need to act pressed on me. I began exploring solar companies again, this time thinking I’d bite the bullet to own a system. I chose to use a home equity line of credit at a reasonable interest rate. I know the return on investment point is many years in the future, even with my careful consumption lifestyle. But the time was now.
Internet research on local and regional companies occupied my spare time. I learned the terminology: SREC, inverter, grid, net metering. Then I took the plunge: I scheduled appointments for the free consultation that all the solar installers here offer.
All the companies wanted my address and they immediately (within 20 seconds) check it on geo-satellite maps for amount of yearly sun exposure. One local company refused to even come out to talk with me based on what their maps indicated. The inside sales rep said my project wasn’t big enough for them!
Narrowing Down the Options
Ultimately, two local solar installers came for visits. They explained their GPS maps. They walked around my property, looked at roof from the exterior, and looked in her attic with flashlights at the underside of roof.
Of the two companies, both seemed competent and experienced. But one seemed to REALLY LISTEN to my desires and concerns much more closely. That one was my choice.
Mounting Frame for Panels
Only Three Days
The sales advisor also actively performs installations. (I like that.) He predicted that the entire process would spread over three working days. He was absolutely accurate. On the first day the team attached the mounting framework to my roof. The second day was used for attaching the 3-foot by 5-foot panels to the frame and doing some wiring. On the last day, the team set up my inverter box and new meters. I needed to be without electric power for about 45 minutes as they tested the hookup with my area’s utility. (I opted to not use. For days on which my system produces less power than I need, the utility seamlessly provides it. On other days, any excess electricity that my panels produce are sold back to my local utility.)
Getting solar panels installed is a move worth making!
In the future, I will report back on my system’s production and my experience.