EDITOR’S NOTE: We want to learn how other companies approach sustainability, so we’ve decided to publish a series of posts featuring innovative companies and people who are doing their part to support our planet. Below is a guest blog from Jodi Hendon, a Green Mountain Energy customer near Dallas who is enrolled on our Renewable Rewards® program.*
Imagine receiving an electricity bill that is less than $10. No, it’s not 1980 and you’re not back in a little duplex that’s half the size of your house now. It’s still 2014.
Those are the nice surprises my family has gotten since we had our solar panels installed in December 2009.
When we installed our 44 solar panels, the installer, Ambassador Energy, helped us set up new accounts with Green Mountain Energy, because Green Mountain gives us credit for the excess energy produced by our solar panels equal to what we pay per unit of energy, or kilowatt-hour. This concept of getting paid for energy you produce is sometimes referred to as “net metering.” Green Mountain offers this perk, so we’ve been with Green Mountain from the beginning.
Right away, we started having very low electricity bills. In 2010, our highest August bill was about 54% less than it was in 2009.
Our most recent May/June bill was $16.63, and we’ve even had negative bills, where we make more money than we owe. We’ve gone to electricity bills that are more like a quick trip to the grocery store than a car payment.
When we check the readouts on the panels, we find that we’re producing 50-75% of the kilowatt-hours we use – sometimes more.
Solar Panel Installation And Payback Period
We had panels installed in our backyard rather than on our house, because of the way our roof is pitched. The initial cost wasn’t cheap, but we received a rebate from Oncor, the local poles and wires utility in our area, and a good-sized tax credit, making our cost about half overall. Mike and Drew at Ambassador Energy walked us through the costs, the size of panels we could afford, and the projected savings before we committed to the installation.
Conservatively, we should recoup our initial cost in about 7-8 years, and we’re figuring a 10% return on our investment. That return is tax free, too.
Besides the savings, we like knowing that we’ve reduced our carbon footprint appreciably. We’ve always been a “reduce, reuse, recycle” family, though we’re anything but perfect. Even though we have the panels now, we’re still conscious of trying not to waste electricity or water (we even keep our thermostat set at 80 in the summer!), and we recycle everything we possibly can.
Solar Panel Takeaways
If having the panels has taught us nothing else, it’s that solar panels save money. From what we’re seeing around our city, Cedar Hill, Texas, more and more people and businesses are installing solar panels.
I’d like to see solar panels on every new roof being built, and I feel like our hope for the future is in young people who invent new ways to include solar panels everywhere (maybe roof tiles that include solar?).
Texas is known as a “Drill, baby, drill” state, but I’d like to see that changed to “Invent, baby, invent.” I’m seeing solar inventions for paving highways and covering parking lots – seems like every month some new, exciting invention is revealed.
And, best of all, sunlight is free!
*Read more about how another Green Mountain customer in Round Rock, Texas, is avoiding 7,500 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year by using solar panels to power her home on the blog.
To read about more businesses and people focused on sustainability, visit our "Sustainability Stories" archive by clicking here.
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