Solar at the edge of the woods

Hearing about the 2015 Solarize Northwest Philly pilot program, and like me, having dreamt for over 30 years of solar panels powering her home, this resident of Marion Lane in Mt Airy went to a discussion at Germantown Friends Meeting last January.

She was impressed with Mark Bortman of Exact Solar and easy explanation of the process of joining the clean energy revolution. The discussions after Mark’s presentation really helped to cinch her decision to invest in rooftop solar, and, as the story goes, she signed up on the last day of the program.

photo: Exact Solar

The system of 19 panels cost her $15,000, with the final cost about $10,000 after the federal tax credit. It is designed with a 4.94 kW capacity generating about 5100 kWh per year, which is pretty good for a flat roof with some shade. There are even 2 panels on the tiny front roof, at the far end of this photo.

Why did she spend such a large chunk of her retirement funds into something on her roof that she never really saw? She tells me in one word: Climate.

The system should pay for itself over time with the greatly reduced PECO bills. The solar installation covers 100% of her electric usage except in the winter.

 

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Solar on Wissahickon Avenue

A young tradesman had been looking for DIY kits to install solar on his own rooftops when he came across posters for the 2015 Solarize Northwest Philly pilot program. He went to an educational meeting, assuming he’d meet many homeowners in his age group, all concerned about climate and wanting to participate in the clean energy scene, only to  discover that he was the youngest in attendance; that most of the others were property managers only looking for a financial incentive to install solar.

panels

He signed on to the program, got Exact Solar to install the panels in July of 2015, and now proudly sports 13 panels on their second and third floor roofs on Wissahickon Ave in Mt Airy.

This 3.3kW system cost them a total of $12,500. The 30% federal tax credit helped. As did a 10 year solar loan from Admiral Bank for the balance, which works out to a payment of about $100 per month.

Their peak usage month has been June. On a sample month, this family’s PECO bill showed usage of 205 kWh, and generation of 182 kWh. The bill reflected this, and only billed them for generation, transmission and distribution for 23 kWh.

sample-bill

He thinks that all new construction should have solar in it’s design. I agree! What’s not to like?

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Second in the series of local solar installations

Area residents happy with their 1+ year solar installation recently spoke at their neighborhood group. We learned of this, and met up with them to learn more.

This family was part of the 2015 Solarize Northwest Philly pilot program organized by the Clean Air Council & Sustainable Business Network last year, with Exact Solar & Solar States as the two preferred contractors. which resulted in about 15 homes with solar on their rooftops. If you’re one of these area residents, and would like to share your story, please contact Meenal at nwphlsolar at gmail.comstory2

Residents of Cresheim Road in Mt Airy, they had their solar panels installed June 2015. They’ve been happy with the installation. Though they discovered they needed a new roof, the roof replacement was well coordinated between local roofer Russell Roofing and solar installer Exact Solar.

The system cost them about $17,000, paid in two chunks. The first payment of about $12,000 was made when the job was completed. The balance was paid the following spring, when they used the 30% Federal tax credit to finish paying Exact Solar the balance of about $5000 owed them on the installation.

The 21 panel system was sized to generate about 92% of their electricity usage, about 5940 watts. Though their bill peaked at $127 when both the air conditioner and dehumidifier were running, the most recent bill has been about $8. Having lived a full year with this installation, they report seeing many months with just the minimum $8 charge.

To occasionally check on the electricity being generated by the rooftop panels, they open up the Solar Edge app on their phones.

Curious about a solar installation for your home? Write us with your address and we’ll do a quick check on whether solar is possible on your rooftop.

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Kickoff Party for Solar Co-op

38717fb4-3423-4c83-9cea-dc37268babb3Next week, we’re having a kickoff party for our budding co-op, the Northwest Philly Solar Co-op. All are invited.

  • When? Thurday September 29 2016, 7 – 9pm
  • Where? Summit Presbyterian Church, Greene & Westview Streets, Philadelphia PA 19119.
  • RSVP or questions, contact Barb at nwphlsolar@gmail.com

Our guest speaker will be Anya Schoolman. In 2007, Anya looked into solarizing her house, and then her street, which led to the founding of DC SUN and the solarizing of hundreds of homes in Washington, DC.

Our other speaker, Meenal Raval, Treasurer of NPSC, will also speak, explaining next steps in gathering memberships and working with solar-collector installation companies to begin solarizing homes and other buildings in NW Philly.

Below is a video of Anya speaking to a prospective group of bulk buyers in Maryland. The video is about an hour long, and covers all of the basics.

Of course, Pennsylvania has different rules, and we will have to develop our own way of doing things, but how exciting it will be to meet the one of the creators of a powerful force for community and environment in our country.

Become the future that we want to see: a world empowered by renewable energy!


 

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Solar in the Northwest

I’ve been hearing about solar panels since I was in high school, over 3 decades ago. But yesterday, as a member of the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, I interviewed a Mt Airy couple who have had solar panels on their roof for a year and a half now. Both were eager to talk about their experience.

They raved about their installers. Showed me their 2 electric meters; one for electricity coming from PECO and the second one added to track the electricity that their rooftop was pushing back onto the grid.

I asked where all their other equipment was that I’d read about: the inverters and batteries and such. And realized that when a solar installation is grid-tied (meaning not off-the-grid), it’s a lot less involved. All they had were the 13 panels on the roof, and the second meter. No other equipment on the porch or basement.

For 7 months of the year, I learned, this system produces in excess of the household’s consumption. During this time (April thru October), their bill is about $7 per month. The other 5 months, it triples to about $20 per month.

They have monitored their production and consumption via an online application, and once noticed a spike in their usage. Concerned that someone was tapping into their system, they drilled into the data and discovered usage during one month, in the wee hours of the night.  A month that coincided with a visit from their teenage granddaughter with all her electrical devices!

When asked why they invested in this solar installation, it was simply… Why, for the common good! Sitting on their serene back porch, I realized the beauty of this. There was no need to explain the horrifying effects of climate, nor of the immediacy of action required.

Weavers Way Co-op and The Shalom Center have teamed up to get more solar installed in Northwest Philadelphia, by forming the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, explained on the flyer here. We all benefit from increased reliance on renewable energy and it is important to develop community-based initiatives that increase its use.

Know that a solar photo-voltaic (PV) system generates clean electricity using a free energy source that will never run out and never go up in price. The fuel requires no mining, no drilling, no mountain-top removing and no transporting, doesn’t require burning or processing, and is never in danger of spilling, emitting, or polluting. In fact, the clean energy produced by your solar energy system emits no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and helps reduce global climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels and the volatile fossil fuel market. As with all manufacturing, there is some waste in that process.

When will solar become the norm, so that every Philly structure with the solar potential achieves this potential? To get to this tipping point, we’re sharing stories from people who already have solar installed at their home or workplace. Each installation will be summarized on a Solar Facts sticker, shown below, for easier comparison.

Solar-FactsAs you’ll see, the 30% Federal tax credit really made this investment affordable and economical. I remember when we got an estimate 11 years ago, a 2kW system was priced at $18,000. And there was no Federal or State incentive that we could apply for. That’s going from $9 per watt to $2.8 per watt!  With the industry scaling up, and government policies to support & encourage us all, this one example looks to be a third cheaper than what we were quoted.

Want to join NPSC? Or simply share your story? Please contact NPSC via Barbara Bloomfield at (215) 247-9204 or barbbloomfield2 [at] aol.com.

What is it that’s keeping people from installing solar on their rooftop? Some of the responses we’re heard are:

  • We’re tenants.  Have your landlord contact NPSC.
  • We’re in a condo. Have your condo association contact NPSC.
  • We have plenty of sun, but are short on cash. The Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op is looking at financing, perhaps thru the Free Loan Association of Germantown(FLAG). Please contact NPSC.
  • We have too many trees and not enough sun. No solar potential. I hear you. Keep the trees. Maybe you’d like to lend through the Free Loan Association of Germantown for other solar installations.

The Earth needs YOU!

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