We did it. My household went for solar energy in 2006. We spent about $20,000 with the understanding that a progressive District of Columbia would spring for part of the bill. The DC subsidy did not materialize, and I am still sore about that, but we made this investment for three reasons: We saved money, we could do it, and for the environment, we had to do it.
Because we save money.
Besides the rather large upfront cost, we chose to use less energy and to pay less money to a coal-burning utility company each month. In fact, that hope was realized — several months of the year, our utility bill should be less than zero, to match our negative net kilowatt usage. That is, the 10 panels on our roof generate more energy than we use in our house. These significant savings mean thousands of dollars over the life of the system, savings I wish everyone in DC would capture.
Because we could.
It was easy. By easy, I mean: This is proven technology. Upgrades are being developed all the time, but the essentials of converting solar rays to energy are not experimental.
Easy because small but busily growing local companies are are available now, outfitting residences and businesses every day. New buildings today would not even be built without solar, or other renewable energy source components, some exclusively.
By easy, I mean that catching rays in DC is easy. Included with my printed statement is a photo of the solar panels on my roof in Petworth, in Ward 4. It’s not just to show how panels look on a small roof, but to show in the background the block of rowhouses – so typical in all quadrants of the District – that appear to have been built specifically to have panels mounted on them. The slanted part of these roofs [just in front of the trees of Soldiers Home] happen to be facing due south at just about the right angle. When we look out on this view, my husband and I marvel at the foresight of early 20th century homebuilders and wonder where all the solar panels are.
Because we must.
We have the ability – with this type of incentive – to stop reliance on coal-burning power plants, locally at Benning Road and at Mirant in Alexandria, and in other more remote locations from which DC residents now buy dirty power.
I couldn’t quite install the solar features myself, so the means for local solar generation will generate local jobs for skilled workers, some really strong and some who are not afraid of heights. These jobs, which cannot be outsourced – and with non-hazardous materials – are the ones we want to grow in the nation’s capital.
It’s difficult to think of a reason not to authorize this Act Through this act, the District takes the capture of cheap, healthier solar energy out of the realm of a boutique building feature, and moves it to an everyday strategy benefitting the local economy and environment.
Increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard to provide the basis of encouragement for all of these positive outcomes – local jobs, revenue for homes capturing free sunshine, money kept inside the District.
We’ll save money, and because we can and because we must.