At 9:30 a.m. this morning on a blue sky, totally cloudless Colorado June day, an Xcel Energy electric meter man knocked on our door and said he was about to switch out our old utility meter – complete with its spinning metal dial – for a brand new one with a digital meter capable of recording electricity consumption and production.
After a three-week wait for the new meter – a wait which had prevented us from turning on our 5.6 kW solar system, the entire process took all of three minutes. Essentially, the Xcel meter man popped out the old meter and literally popped in the new one. It was all plug-and-play, no time-consuming wires to cut, or to run here or there. Just – pop – out with the old one, and – pop – in with the new one!
And, just like that, with the flip of a switch – actually, three switches, the AC, DC and solar inverter on switches — which I excitedly turned on even before the Xcel meter man had left our yard – we have become an electricity producer, not just a consumer, with our 26-panel PV system pumping out 32.4 kWh of electricity today!
It’s a thrilling feeling. There’s so much sun energy to be had in the world – far more than we could ever use – and now, we are part of the unfortunately small but also fortunately growing percentage of people tapping this clean, abundant, renewable, pretty much never-ending source of energy (okay, the sun will go nova in 5 billion years or so).
Wasted rooftop space
There’s so much potential here – and so little of it being harnessed. In our immediate neighborhood of 51 modest single-family homes, about 40 percent have a perfect-for-solar, south-facing, essentially shade-less roof just like ours. An additional 30 percent have good, shade-free west-facing rooftop space. That means 70 percent of the home rooftops in our neighborhood could support a good-sized, economical solar system.
I can confidently say that we will never – as long as we live in this Aurora, Colo. house – ever pay another cent to Xcel Energy for electricity. Never.
Yet not a single one has solar PV, although two have late 1980s solar thermal systems (I’m not sure if they’re still functional).
So much wasted rooftop potential – and that’s just in our small corner of the world.
At least our roof no longer qualifies as wasted space – and that’s a fantastic feeling!
We’ve gone solar, and we’ve done so at a very reasonable cost – with our out-of-pocket expenses about $8,300. That’s approximately $1.50 per watt, out-of-pocket.
Without an electric car, it would take about seven years for us to reach payback, with a car – because, yes, solar electricity will replace gasoline for us soon! — it’ll take about four or five years. After that, we’re looking at 25 to 30 years of nearly free electricity and gas (we will have to replace our solar inverter somewhere between year 12 and 15, although that expense is calculated into the solar payback time).
Proving solar naysayers wrong
I know there are some negative grousers out there who would swipe back at my giddy, we’ve-just-gone-solar glee with by labeling me an “elitist”. This, while the vast majority of these grousers are likely doing absolutely nothing to improve the world we live in, environmentally speaking.
Theirs is simplistic and defensive, red-herring “logic” grounded in an ad hominem attack. Basically, it tries to distract from the real issues by attacking the character of the person making the argument rather than addressing the merits of the argument itself. The most significant of these merits is the fact that solar energy is a better, cleaner way to create electricity than the fossil fuels we generally use right now to produce electricity.
If saying so, is “elistist”, if taking a stand for a better way of living, and actually living that life is “elistist”, I’m happy to be called an elitist – 10,000 times over.
The grousers can grouse and they can continue to claim, falsely and short-sightedly, that fossil fuels are “the” answer – even as they hasten the world’s inevitable rush toward The End of Oil (by the end of this century), The End of Coal (within the next two centuries), and The End of Natural Gas (within the next 150 years) by refusing to significantly reduce their own fossil fuel consumption and even as they contribute disproportionately to the world’s environmental ills, as the average American is wont to do.
The grousers can – and will — continue to ooze what amounts to an anti-American it-can’t-be-done attitude. Ironically, it’s nearly always those who claim to be the most “patriotic” who proclaim most loudly that we can’t power America with renewable energy.
Solar = A can-do American attitude
Right back at you: There’s nothing more American than a can-do attitude, as in, yes we can, and will, do renewable energy – and we will power America, and the world with it!
So, touché to those who claim us “greenies” who put our money where our mouth is and do things like go solar, which we just did, and who believe we can do renewable energy are “anti-American” – that would be us: It is you who sport the anti-American it-can’t-be-done views, not us!
In the past ten hours, on this beautiful, blue-sky Colorado June day – our first official home solar system day — we’ve generated 32.4 kWh of electricity, or enough to power an electric car 130 beautifully, air-pollution-free, oil-free, and Big Oil-free miles!
In the end, for me, going solar isn’t about who is “most American”. It’s about being the best global citizen I — and we, as a family – can be, and doing the right thing for the world, environmentally speaking.
OK, it’s also a little about showing up the neighbors, and showing them – and the world –that, yes, it can be done.
It can be done because we are in fact doing it , and doing it for a very reasonable upfront price. In the long run, this price will, economically speaking, disappear as our electricity costs remain static over three decades. I can confidently say that we will never – as long as we live in this Aurora, Colo. house – ever pay another cent to Xcel Energy for electricity. Never.
A net electricity producer
We’ll definitely be a net electricity producer and we’ll be more than offsetting our carbon, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and other pollutant production.
And soon – the sooner the better, though, realistically, it looks like it could be two years before Nissan’s LEAF or another mainstream electric car actually become available for purchase in Colorado – we’ll be adding a solar-charged electric car to our “elitist” home solar repertoire. Then, we’ll be driving air pollution and — how satisfying is this given the ongoing BP oil spill debacle in the Gulf of Mexico – oil free too!
In fact, in the past ten hours, on this beautiful, blue-sky Colorado June day – our first official home solar system day — we’ve generated 32.4 kWh of electricity, or enough to power an electric car 130 beautifully air-pollution-free, oil-free, and Big Oil-free miles!
Not too many people can say they’re in position to do this. Of course, we certainly hope that more and more soon will be in that position and that we, as a world, eventually move to tapping sun energy not just to power our homes but to run our cars as well!
- A solar-charged roof becomes a reality
- A step-by-step photo gallery of our solar installation
- Solar-charged driving 101
- What questions to ask a solar consultant & solar company