Here’s how I became a bona-fide energy producer, by installing solar panels on my home with help from Solarize Carrboro.
I had considered installing solar panels for years, but never committed for two reasons: the cost to convert seemed high, and my electric bills seemed low in comparison.
When I heard about Solarize Carrboro last spring, I attended one of the initial meetings. I found myself part of large group of like-minded citizens, most of whom had questions I had not considered.
The meeting also included independent experts in solar energy installation, neighbors with experience in the process, and representatives of the companies contracted to do the work. With knowledge gained from that meeting and my own research, I signed up for the free home assessment.
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Assessment was quick. One technician from the company assigned to my neighborhood checked my roof, then we looked at my annual electricity usage rate online at Duke Power. He noted that I had an almost “perfect” site for the panels.
I received my installation-price quote quickly: eight 250-watt panels would cost about $8,700, less than I expected. Depending on how many other neighbors signed up, the group would also get initial base discounts and tiered pricing.
What convinced me to invest were the tax credits, which (based on current North Carolina and federal regulations) should be about $5,000.
Solarize Carrboro provides local financing as a payment option. Instead, I used some of my retirement funds. The panels have a 25 year warranty and are mostly maintenance free. Since I was paying about $400 per year for electricity, after getting my tax credits, I should have my investment paid off in about 10 years – sooner, since the cost of electricity will continue to increase.
I consider that a good investment, especially at current interest rates.
The contractor (Yes! Solar Solutions) installed the panels and wiring in about two days. They also handled the paperwork with Duke Energy, which took about two weeks to do their part, which included installing a new meter allowing electricity to go both ways.
Some of my friends still think that solar power is too expensive. The problem is, the full cost of using nuclear and fossil-fuel-powered electricity is just not included in our electric bills.
“Solarizing” is one way you can stop externalizing those costs.
Solarize Chapel Hill and Solarize Hillsborough will hold organizing meetings: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 3, at the Chapel Hill Public Library, and 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 10, at the Orange County Campus of Durham Tech.
The program is open to anyone in Orange County, and you can attend either meeting. See solarizenc.org/.