In case I have not made it clear, I am a card carrying member of a red state. I believe in self-reliance, small central government, and local governing. There is a common misconception about us Republicans, and I have to credit the Democrats for good marketing on this. Republicans have been labeled as anti-environment, and Democrats have cornered the “green” movement.
This is simply not true. Republicans want to help out our world as much as anyone else – we do have children and we want to pass on to them a healthy planet. But we are also pragmatic about it. We understand that you cannot convert our worldwide dependence on fossil fuels overnight. You have to give businesses incentive to innovate new technology.
And when I say “incentive” I do not mean tax dollars. You cannot throw money at problem and hope it goes away – and government should not be investing in private companies. Tax reduction to industries that promote Green Energy can be beneficial, but “incentives” to a company equates to “Sales” not subsidies.
The more people become aware of green technologies (and how they can use them) they will buy them – and the more people buy them, the cheaper they become. So government should invest in educating consumers on how they can benefit from new technologies and what technologies are available to them.
Getting off my soap box, Solar energy has been around for a very long time, but only recently has it become affordable (and only then through tax incentives). At my home in South Carolina, we have been moving toward living in a Greener way. It is not that we have become dirty hippies. We are working middle class people that are starting to see the damage that is being done to both our planet and our bodies.
Mass produced meat and vegetables are full of chemicals, steroids, and pesticides. Twice a week, the garbage truck roars through my neighborhood picking up tons of trash – that gets dumped in landfills. And in my part of the world, there is no curbside recycling. It is as if convenience has outweighed respect for both our planet and our bodies.
So, a couple years ago, we decided to change our habits. But in our case, we wanted to both save the planet and the cash in our pockets. I have a large garden (that gets bigger every year), which produces about half of our vegetables – and I don’t use chemicals on it. We started composting, and recycling. Between those two things, our trash has been reduced to a little over a bag a week. Yes, we have to run to the dump every other week to recycle, but we were able to cancel our trash service.
So what is the next step? That is the question I have been asking myself for a couple years. We have been talking about buying a grass feed cow (not a live one), and I am on a list to get an Ossabaw Hog (if you don’t know what that is, look it up and get in line – they are very hard to get). Eating organic meat is certainly better for our health, but what about the health of our world?
Then it happened. A couple months ago, my wife opened the bill from our electric company. It was the one from the height of the Carolina summer and despite our conscious effort to reduce our usage, the bill was very high. That’s when it hit me, I could not remember the last time I thought about alternative energy.
On my walk with my dog the next morning, I noticed two fairly new solar panels on a house down the street. They were nothing big, probably just one for an attic fan and the other for their hot water heater, but it got me thinking.
At first I was just thinking about switching the house to gas, but that would require a lot of new appliances and gas lines – and it is still a fossil fuel. I would have to go with propane since natural gas is not available in my neighborhood, so there would not be much of a cost savings.
But those two little solar panels get my mind going, and thank god for Google. I have spent the last couple months doing research and it seems that the newer panels are both more efficient and less expensive. So yesterday, I took the first step. Since I have never met anyone that has taken these steps, I decided I need to chronicle it here to hopefully help others in the future.
It turns out that South Carolina is second only to Arizona on the amount of sunshine each year, so I am in a good spot. There are still other concerns that need to be address before I find out if I am eligible to actually get the system, but here is what has happened so far.
I found a local certified installer in my area. All I had to do was Google “Solar Panel Installation Bluffton”. The company is called DASolar Energy. I think they are just a referral service that does the leg work for local installers. They have a form to fill out on their website – it is pretty easy. From my research, I knew I was looking for a 5 kW system. I am still unsure whether they plug into my local power company or if the system would be “off the grid”
On grid systems would tie into your current power meter. The meter would run forward if the solar panels were not producing enough power (like at night) and the meter would run backwards when the panels were producing too much power (like at noon while you are at work). So basically, you could still draw from the power company when you need it and give your excess power back when you don’t. In an ideal situation, your meter would net zero and you would not have a power bill, or you produce too much energy, and they would actually pay you!
I don’t think that my power company has that ability, so I think I am looking at getting an off the grid system. Hopefully I am wrong.
Today, they contacted me via email to verify some facts about my house. They use Google and Bing maps to get an aerial view of the house and how it is situated in relation to the sun, so they asked me to verify that the aerial views were actually my house, and they asked me about any trees that might obstruct the sunlight.
In a separate email, I received financing information and a preliminary cost break down. After fed and state tax credits it was under $8000 which was a lot better than what I was reading online.
Assuming my house qualifies, the next step is getting the installer out to look at the house and go over all the particulars.
Keep in mind that I live in a neighborhood, so I am also going to have to get approval from the board. Some neighborhoods have not been friendly to solar, so before I even began I felt out a couple board members. They seemed to be okay with it, but said they needed drawings, so we will see what happens.
Stay tuned for details