At our modest 1500-sqft home in Woodridge, our 10-panel PV system producing 2.75 kw was installed in 2015. By December 2019 we will have expanded it by 60% to produce fuel for our all-electric vehicle. Our system uses micro-inverters, making expansion simple. And, it faces southeast and is shaded by neighbors in early morning and by the roof ridge and a maple tree later in the afternoon, proving you don’t have to have a perfect southern aspect for solar to pay. We have also been instrumental in installation of a 13 kw system at our church/art gallery/studio, the Compassion Factory in Brookfield, in 2018. This is a renovated 90-year-old commercial building with a beautiful sunny flat roof. Both Woodridge and Brookfield are now recognized as SolSmart communities, with the policies and procedures in place to welcome solar installations. (SolSmart is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office).
Although Jim and I have been renewable energy advocates since 1973, we had to focus on improving the energy efficiency of the churches he served, and the parsonages we lived in, during the years of his ministry. After all, the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use! At last we were able to buy our own home when he retired in 2014, and immediately equipped it with solar as we had long dreamed of doing. It’s simply the morally right thing to do. After years of talking the talk, we finally could walk the walk of using solar electricity! We didn’t care whether it was a financial benefit or not. But the savings and the incentives are indeed great! Each year the Renewable Energy Certificate income we receive has generously exceeded the electric bills (which are basically the fee for being connected to the grid). And our installer handled the (rather complex) REC enrollment details for us. That was great! (And the new REC system is even more advantageous for homeowners.) When the new church plant we work with acquired and renovated its building, we simply told the pastor there would be solar on its roof, and our donation was largely offset by tax benefits to us! Its installation, designed to produce 101% of the building’s usage, is an ongoing benefit to Compassion Church and Compassion Factory art gallery and studio. It’s also a moral statement. It demonstrates what we’re about – Compassion, love of neighbor, specifically environmental justice. (By the way, for both projects, three bids were requested, and two different companies ended up with the contracts. Both are excellent.) Whether we refer to our environment as “creation” or “biosphere” or both, it’s up to us to do everything we can to ensure that a clean, livable planet exists for all our grandchildren - and their grandchildren.
What tips do you have for someone considering or moving forward with a solar installation?
First, don’t assume your house won’t work. Ask. Check the ISEA website for reputable installers in your area, and ask three for bids. Look for detail but not unrealistic, extravagant promises. Be sure your installer will help you with your city permitting process and REC program enrollment. Second, don’t assume you can’t afford it. Tax credit and REC benefits begin your payback the very first year, and you’ll love the energy cost savings. At the same time, you’ll want to do everything you can to reduce your consumption, and that’s yet another financial gain. For example, ComEd FREE assessment programs can equip your home with great free upgrades.Third, don’t wait. Some incentives are designed to step down over time. Some will disappear entirely. And the earth needs all of us to do this – now! And finally, don’t let your village’s electricity aggregation program accidentally kick you off of net metering! When you go solar, you’ll enroll in your supplier’s net metering system. Stay in it!