Solar Sister

SisterIf you asked me a year ago whether my sister would get solar panels installed on her house, I would have said, “no way.”

It’s not that she ever claimed solar was bad or questioned its utility.  Instead, she struck me as being like many people, solar did not seem to be on her radar (although, I suppose solar wasn’t completely off her radar, given she had a brother who was very happy with his solar carport).

Things changed this past year.  As I understand, she and her husband noticed a few people in their neighborhood getting solar systems.  They also noticed SolarCity advertising everywhere, including malls and big box retailers like Home Depot.  Even my parents started wondering if solar was right for them.

While I don’t know what ultimately motivated them to do this, my sister and her husband contacted SolarCity as well as a local solar company to learn more.  People from these companies came to their house, they were given information and quotes, they got advice from me and they thought long and hard.  Then, earlier this week, I got an email from my sister.

She and her husband just decided to go solar!

They will be getting an 8.2 kW system, made up of 25 SunPower 327 modules.  That’s twice the size of my system.  They use more electricity that I do—for heating and cooling.  I was eyeing SunPower panels for our roof before deciding to build a solar carport.  SunPower panels are more efficient (they generate more power for a given roof area; which is great if you don’t have a large south facing roof) and SunPower panels look very nice.

My sister and husband were deciding between a solar lease with SolarCity, to buy a system outright from SolarCity (which they are now offering in some markets; provided you use their panels), or to go with a local installer.  They went with the local installer.

My main advice was to buy the system outright.  It is a lot of money upfront, but over the long run, you wind up making it all back, and then you get money for free until you move or die.  A solar lease doesn’t give you a steady income stream like buying a system does.

I know they will be happy.  And where they live, they can sell SRECs (solar renewable energy certificates).  I’m jealous about that.  With an 8.2 kW system, and the going rate of SRECs in their state, they will get over $1,500 back per year.

In addition, they will pay much less each month for their electricity bill.

The fact that my sister is going solar has made me realize two things.  1) That my sister and her husband are pioneers and 2) that solar will soon be common in many more states, not just CA (although I hope this momentum isn’t slowed when the federal tax credits expire in 2016).

It is amazing to hear that people in my sister’s community are talking about solar and getting photovoltaic systems.  I hear about solar power and other renewables almost every day in the news and on the radio.  This was not the case, even a year ago.  Solar power is here!

More accurately, solar power is everywhere, get some panels and you can use it too.  Free energy that doesn’t pollute.