Going Solar on LBI: It’s a Win-Win
What if I said you could save money while helping the environment at no cost. Crazy, right?
I have been wanting to put solar panels on my home on LBI for some time now. We rarely use air conditioning unless we have company or the heat and humidity are just unbearable, so I initially was met with resistance about how much money we would actually save. I could not answer that question and I let it go.
After Superstorm Sandy, however, I started thinking hard about our planet and our children, and our little Island and how it was affected. In the beginning of this year I finally made the call to Solar City to really find out the answer. I am sure there are other companies that are equivalent, but Elon Musk has been my youngest son’s hero for a while so this was my starting point, and I made the call. I have absolutely no connection, other than reading Elon Musk’s biography and my son’s admiration, to Solar City.
I was asked by my energy consultant, Mitchell, why I wanted solar panels. For me it was to help the environment, while for my husband it was for savings. Immediately Mitchell directed me to an information page that showed what would be accomplished and how.
Solar panels gather clean energy from the sun that combats greenhouse gas emissions and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. Traditionally, electricity gets its power from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, which when burned release toxic gases that are the primary cause of pollution and global warming. Not only do they hurt the environment, they are a finite resource that can cause energy prices to increase in a short period of time in a volatile market.
The average solar panel system will offset 178 tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years. This is like planting 10 football fields full of trees, conserving enough water to fill 6.7 Olympic-sized swimming pools, eliminating the need to burn almost 174,907 pounds of coal, or saving the fuel it would take to drive around the equator about 15.7 times, or 390,300 miles.
If you’re in the show-me-the-savings camp, you can save money on your energy bill as soon as you are up and running. Solar power costs less than other forms of power generation, and if you lease a system rather than buying the panels outright, you pay a locked-in fixed rate for your power. This means that your savings go up when energy prices go up. If you decide to buy the panels you can get tax credits; that decision is between you and your accountant.
I must admit I had to ask Mitchell about five times if I was understanding him correctly. One statement, that the company will install everything for free, seemed too good to be true. I then signed the contracts online for the company to schedule everything with everyone necessary to make this switch. This included inspections and all paperwork involved and meters swapped out with my electric company. We received reminders and calls as well as a record of what had been done and what would be the next step. I have never dealt with a more efficient company.
After the many times I was confronted by others about the potential savings, I finally asked, “How much savings is enough savings?” Would $10 a month be enough? $20? $5? Isn’t any savings enough to make installing solar panels worthwhile if we are also helping the environment without the panels costing us one penny to install or one minute of inconvenience?
Then I got my first bill. Last year I paid $100 to the electric company. My first bill from Solar City in this very hot summer was $30. I saved $70! Needless to say, I don’t get that question anymore.
I started thinking about LBI and what this Island is all about. People come here to relax, breathe the clean ocean air, swim, surf, run, bike, boat, spend time with their families. It really is the epitome of healthy living. Wind power off-shore was proposed at one time, but people did not want to look at the ocean and see the windmills – I get that. But panels on the roof, which you basically can only see if you are flying overhead, can cost nothing, save money and help the environment. That’s a no-brainer.
Not every house can accommodate panels. A south-facing roof and a house free of obstructions like trees are two of the few requirements. But with all the new construction, shouldn’t builders and architects encourage their clients to think about incorporating solar energy? Even if the panels aren’t installed upon construction, owners should have the option to add them in the future. Again, these panels can cost nothing to install, and roofers would much prefer knowing the panels are part of the plan to save using unnecessary roofing tiles and labor (another savings!).
I just can’t see a downside to this and think that most homeowners would prefer to have the option, as solar becomes more and more popular and cost-efficient.
Since we live where we have a direct impact on the ocean, there are other actions I would take to make this Island greener and protect our environment: charge for plastic bags (yes, this really does encourage people to bring their own) and ban glyphosate, which is sprayed right into our groundwater (yes, there really is a connection between Round-up and cancer determined by the World Health Organization). But while enacting these ideas is too intrusive for some, I know everyone is interested in saving money. Here is the easy chance to do both!
Lisa Abramson lives in Beach Haven Gardens.