Going Solar

Going Solar

What’s an American couple to do right after the winter of our discontent — not to mention despair and disbelief?

We’re looking on the sunny side. Bear with us. It was recently summer in Antarctica, after all, when the sun shines 24 hours a day. Two entire ice sheets down yonder have disappeared in recent decades, and a third, a much larger one, is cracking up.

Clever, those Chinese, to come up with such a plausible “hoax:” global warming.

That endangered ice sheet, Larsen C, is a stone cold metaphor for our divided country. Its 100-mile-long crack is getting longer and wider by the minute, and scientists expect (I know, what do scientists know, but let’s humor them, OK?), that the result will be the one of largest icebergs on record. Stay tuned.

What can you and I do about such things? Well, first off, please don’t even think of not voting for the rest of your life. And second: do something. March? Sure, pound the pavement! My wife and some friends were at the Woman’s March in Washington the day after the inauguration. It gave them hope and ideas for the next four years.

How about doing organizational work in your congressional district for the midterm elections in 2018? You bet! Perchance talk civilly to friends, neighbors and relatives —even strangers — about issues that you feel are important to your family, to your children and grandchildren? Amen, sisters and brothers.

But do something. We are pretty much on our own for a spell.

To battle the hoax, my wife and I have decided to go solar. Photovoltaic panels are totally trending. The price has dropped like a rock in the past decade (roughly 70 percent), and a generous federal tax credit of 30 percent on the installation cost is in place through 2019. And guess what: the red-hot solar industry now employs twice as many people as coal mining.

There also is a state incentive program, and more than half of the 22,742 homes sporting photovoltaic systems here have come online in just the past two years, according to the local power companies.

The sun beats down on our south-facing roof most of the day, and 20 solar panels will generate about 6,847 kilowatts a year, according to our veteran installer, who was doing solar when solar wasn’t cool. Over the next 25 years, that energy from the sun, blissfully clean and free — well, free after the estimated nine-year payback on our $13,500 investment — will remove tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, the equivalent of not driving our car about 280,000 miles.

Wait, sunny-siders, there’s more. The system, once paid for, will save us an additional $37,000 over 25 years, based on the projected rise in utility rates. The typical lifespan of a solar system is 30 to 40 years. Studies have shown that solar houses are worth more and sell faster than comparable properties. And in our state, panels are exempt from property taxes. Sweet.

You’d rather not buy? Not a problem, you can lease or enter into a power purchase agreement that lowers your monthly electric bill while letting a third party pay for and maintain the system (and pocket the incentives).

My wife and I could have gone a bit smaller, simply to meet our current electrical usage, but we decided to factor in additional capacity for air-conditioning and powering an electric car that travels 10,000 miles a year (haven’t pulled the trigger on that one just yet). If we generate more kilowatts than we use in a year, the power company has to pay us for the excess at the going wholesale rate.

So have we saved the planet, my wife and I? Hardly. No more than one vote will determine the next election. None of us has superpowers. We just have to do something. By one estimate, solar power could generate as much as half of the kilowatts Connecticut consumes. The only way to get there is one roof at a time.

Why don’t you join us? Go solar, or do something else. But do something. Do you know what the best part is?

We feel great again.