The solar panels aren’t even a year old and they’re already paying dividends for Lindsey Perkins Wade. In February, she and her husband installed 26 solar panels on the roof of their Mansfield home.
Since then, they’ve paid $138 for electricity, all in the summer months. Compare that to the same period last year when they paid $574 without the solar panels.
That includes charging their Tesla Model 3.
“We’re so happy that we can create the electricity that we need to live in our house and go places,” Perkins Wade said. “There’s absolutely no guilt about driving anywhere now. We produce the energy that we consume.”
The 8.58 kilowatt system works alongside their 2 rain barrels, extra spray foam insulation in the walls of the house and a radiant barrier in the attic to reduce their carbon footprint while also saving money.
And she expects their electricity costs to be even lower in 2020 when they have a whole fall, winter and spring to build up energy credits for the summer. By using Green Mountain Energy, the extra electricity produced by the solar panels goes back on the grid and they get credits to use when their electricity exceeds what they produce.
“We got the bill and it literally says do not pay. Information only. Do not pay. Your account has a credit balance,” Perkins Wade said.
But there’s a lot to know before going solar. You want to know what questions to ask, how to find the right installer, what rebates and tax credits are available and whether your house is really a good fit for solar panels.
Perkins Wade got most of her questions answered by attending a learning session by the North Texas Renewable Energy Group’s DFW Solar Tour in 2018.
“It was incredibly helpful. I doubt we would have gotten the panels this year without it,” Perkins Wade said.
What a difference a year makes.
Last year, Perkins Wade attended the DFW Solar Tour to learn and this year her house was a destination on the tour. The 10-annual tour on Oct. 5 had 30 sites, including nine learning centers where people would give informational talks and demonstrations. The majority of the sites were private homes that have gone solar around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The tour included one home that’s completely off the grid.
Robert Litwins, tour committee chair, said the self-guided tour and learning centers feature all kinds opportunities to see environmentally friendly technology in action and ask the owners how they work in everyday life.
Litwins had his first solar panels installed in 2009 when he paid $2.99 a watt, after incentives and the federal tax credit. He expanded the system in 2014, paying $1.37 per watt.
“Solar wasn’t cheap back then but it was still economically feasible to do it and I don’t regret it all, even though I paid a little more back then,” Litwins said. “It makes even more sense now because the cost has come down so much.”
His highest electric bill was in August when he paid $104, which includes charging his plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius Prime. Like Perkins Wade, most months he sells more power back to the grid than he uses, resulting in a credit back to him.
Jon Fripp, a volunteer with NTREG and a civil engineer, hosted one of the learning centers at the Irving Public Library, which has its own solar panel system. He and his daughter showed off different micro applications for solar, including a device that uses the sun to charge cellphones, cook hot dogs and provide emergency lighting.
“People want to know about solar, is it something that’s viable and what can it do?” Fripp said. “Tremendously, more energy hits our Earth in one day than we consume in an entire year in fossil fuels.”
These microgrids are proving essential for developing countries but they are also practical ways to show off what solar can do.
Also, NTREG considers themselves solar enthusiasts.
“We don’t push anything. We don’t sell anything,” Fripp said.
The next big NTREG event will be EarthX2020 at Fair Park, April 23-26.