In April I started working for Power Trip Energy Corp. In July we put an 8.38 kW solar PV array installation on the roof of our house. David and I were initially thinking of ourselves, really. We love the idea of getting energy for free and in putting a solar system on our roof we understand the economic benefit to our household’s bottom line but in my heart of hearts I wanted to believe we were making a difference in the bigger picture. I want to see that we are having a positive impact on the bad news that surrounds us on a daily basis.
In this very green minded corner of the world we worry about climate change, forest fires, drought and severe storms. We worry about the future availability of resources and the equity of their management and dis
tribution. We conserve, we recycle, take our own bags shopping where we buy local and organic. We understand the true costs of goods and services but this is not enough. We all know it isn’t enough.
Like many of you, I followed the recent story of the grieving mother orca with a heavy heart and a morbid fascination. The many conversations surrounding the news reflected my feelings that this story is yet another sign of what will be more disastrous news to come for all species. The unhealthy conditions of what should be pristine waters of the Puget Sound fills me with embarrassment and overwhelms me with thoughts of helplessness but this recent ecological hit so close to home has stiffened my resolve to do more. My commitment to clean energy and to the removal of Hydroelectric dams is high on my priority list and I’m hoping to share information and learn from anyone who is willing to converse on the subject.
We have always believed ourselves lucky to have such an abundant, affordable resource for energy in the form of Hydroelectricity, but upon closer examination the unforeseen and true cost of cheap electricity become more apparent. There are studies showing that in addition to the dams impeding the passage of fish there is also damage to the habitat upstream effecting many species. The river’s temperature is altered, oxygen levels are changed, land being cleared and flooded causes methane gasses to be released, contributing to global warming.
Rising greenhouse gas emissions and a warming world affect the entire hydrological cycle—surface and ground water, glaciers, precipitation, runoff and evaporation. Shifting precipitation patterns and increased droughts are changing water levels in rivers and behind hydro dams.
The solar PV array we installed affords me a small bit of relief from the guilt of our modern life. With the on-line reporting that came with our system I see an accumulation of numbers I can feel good about. The system tells me the amount of energy our system produced and the equivalent of miles not driven that equates to, the amount of CO2 not pumped into the atmosphere. The coal not burned, etc. These number are not exact, and a little generic or presumptive – but none the less I plan to celebrate this as a success.
Some of you may argue that to produce the solar panels was not without pollution or without harvesting of precious resources. Which is true, but I can also rest a bit easier in the knowledge that the solar PV array we installed was manufactured and certified as the most sustainable available. The manufacturer; SunPower is a B-Corp! Look it up if you are unfamiliar, it is something worth knowing more about – https://bcorporation.net/
Maybe you’ll make the argument that it’s expensive – you’re not wrong and we are not wealthy. Here’s how we made it work within our budget. We took advantage of a low interest loan specific to energy efficiency upgrades through Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union. Our plan includes applying the incentive money coming back to us; 30% federal tax credit on the cost of the system and the annual payment we will receive from the Washington State incentive program at $0.14 per kilowatt produced, to the loan allowing us to pay it off in a shorter time. We will also see a reduction in our monthly electricity bills as we will get to use the power we generate first, the excess will be purchased by our local public utility at the current market rate, so our monthly utility bill will be reduced and that previously budgeted money can be applied to the loan too. We anticipate paying the 10-year loan off in 8 years without ever being stressed by the monthly payments.
I hope that you will agree that as humans we need to examine our lifestyle and the modern conveniences we all feel entitled to. We need to see our individual responsibilities in the endeavor to bring about the change we want to see. We must recognize our individual opportunities to participate in the solutions, celebrate the successful changes we make and continue to reach-out and bring others on-board.
How can it happen if you and I are not making it happen?