Solar: Save Money and Fight Climate Change

A Hill Resident Saves Money while Helping the Environment

319
Composting is a great way to reduce your waste and improve the soil around your home. Credit: K. Rostkowski

What’s the easiest way to save money while helping fight climate change?  If you ask Hill resident John Ten Hoeve,  the first thing he’ll tell you is to invest in solar energy for your home.

Ten Hoeve has lived on the Hill with his family since 2015, and he’s been interested in weather and climate from as far back as he can remember. With degrees in meteorology and environmental engineering, he’s acutely aware of the impact that greenhouse gas emissions are already having on our planet, and he wants to be a part of the solution. Fortunately, DC offers a wealth of opportunities to do just that.

As a homeowner, John is a huge fan of rooftop solar. The solar array on his rowhouse generates 75% of the electricity his family consumes, which is impressive given that his roof also houses an air conditioning system and ductwork. Between the electricity savings and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) that he sells on the SREC market, the payback period for his solar array is only four years while the panels will last about 25 years.  After that four-year payback period, the array will be generating income for him—through reduced electrical bills and SREC payments. Ten Hoeve explains, “If you took the upfront cost of installing a solar array (approximately $10-15k for an average Capitol Hill home after tax credits) and instead, invested that money in the stock market, you would need roughly a 11% annual rate of return over 10 years to match the money generated from the solar panels–which is risk free!  After running all of these numbers, I was honestly shocked by how much financial sense it makes to install solar.”

Capitol Hill rowhouse roofs often provide a perfect site for a solar array
Credit: Solar Solution

But not everyone has thousands of dollars to invest in a solar array installation. Solar installers offer a variety of financial arrangements that allow you to lower your down payment and/or sell your SREC credits up-front or to lease panels through a power purchasing agreement (PPA).  If all this sounds interesting but hard to fully grasp, DC Solar United Neighborhoods (https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/dc/) has a wealth of information to guide you through the process.

And if your roof is shaded or you don’t own your home, you can still power your home with renewable energy by contributing to a community solar project that will offset your electricity bill or purchasing green electricity from a verified 3rd party wind or solar electricity supplier that uses existing Pepco infrastructure.

Ten Hoeve notes, “I bought 100% wind energy before I purchased a solar array for my home, and I continue to purchase wind energy for the 25% of the electricity I don’t generate from solar.”  Meanwhile, programs such as the District Department of Energy and Environment’s (DOEE) Solar for All program help low- and middle-income residents—both homeowners and renters—save money by adopting solar energy.

But moving to solar power isn’t the only way to go green. According to Andrew Didden, Financial Advisor at the National Capital Financial Group located at National Capital Bank, “The number of environmental, social, governance (ESG) investment options has increased substantially over the last few years while associated management fees for these funds have dropped considerably. This makes green investing a lot more affordable.” Ten Hoeve notes, “Many people don’t realize that a large percentage of their carbon emissions are tied to their investments or their debts, but there are many more options now to reduce these indirect emissions through more sustainable investing.”

Ten Hoeve has also taken on more hands-on tactics that save money while reducing his family’s carbon footprint, and thereby helping to protect the environment. ”We use our car sparingly, we only eat meat once or twice a week, and we compost our food waste for our backyard garden.  My four-year-old daughter already lets me know when I leave the lights on!”

While Ten Hoeve appreciates that he’s able to save money and be more environmentally friendly through these changes, he’s also very much aware of the magnitude of the climate challenge we face. ““While cutting your own carbon emissions is laudable, the United States cannot reach its targets through personal action alone.  We also have to support political movements that advocate for large-scale changes in our electricity, transportation, and residential heating/cooling systems.”  So, no, in short, installing a solar array on your home isn’t going to save the world, but it will help address the climate crisis and even increase the value of your home and put some money in your pocket!.

Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, an urban homesteader, a writer, and blogger for the DC Recycler: www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler.  She is als the Chair of the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, however, perspectives expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.