“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…” (Proverbs 13:22).
Our neighbor Mary lives in a small house bordering our produce field. She’s retired, and lives modestly on a fixed income. Like many of us, she’s watched as utility costs have gone up year by year. A few years ago, we replaced her drafty single-pane windows. Last summer, we blew in insulation to make her attic and walls more weather-tight. And in the last few months we’ve insulated her basement ceiling to warm up her floors in winter.
All these efforts have had amazing results. Her daily electric usage has fallen a long way – by 20 percent in the last year alone. And her heating oil usage has come down by about one-third. But despite all these efforts at efficiency, electric costs just keep going up. Over the past decade, average electric charges in this country went up about 4% per year. With almost all its customers affected by back-to-back hurricanes Irene and Sandy, our local New Jersey utility – JCP&L – has repeatedly been granted rate hikes. Mary now pays 18.4 cents for every kilowatt-hour she uses.
But all that’s about to change. Just a few days ago, a work crew from Sungevity, a solar power developer, arrived to install solar panels on Mary’s south-facing roof. The system will provide 94 percent of Mary’s electric needs. She’ll be left with a monthly electric bill of about $4.00. So she can relax about ongoing spikes in utility rates.
How much did all this cost? Well, up front, nothing at all. Mary is leasing her solar system over 20 years. The lease payments are just about the same as her current electric bills. In fact, Sungevity projects that she will save $24,866 in utility payments over the life of the lease, but it could be worse as rates keep rising. Her lease payments, which are fixed up front, will total $23,259 – $1,607 less than the utility cost she’s saving.
So Mary’s got totally renewable, clean electricity at a savings of $1,600 or more over the life of the lease.
Of course, money isn’t all Mary’s saving. She has two sons and a granddaughter, so the world she leaves them makes a big difference. And with her system, she will reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years by 144,548 lbs. That’s more than 65 tons less CO2 for the next generation to deal with.
What does that actually mean? Well, here at Good Hand Farm, we plant a lot of trees. Just two days ago we added eight more peach trees to our backyard orchard. But Mary’s system will have the same effect on atmospheric CO2 as planting 1,685 trees, according to EPA equivalency tables. That’s 1,685 trees! You may not see that many all week.
But there are other useful comparisons as well. According to the EPA, the greenhouse gas savings from Mary’s new rooftop savings will have the same effect as:
- Taking 13.8 cars off the road for a year.
- Cutting 23.5 tons of garbage going to the landfill.
- Driving a car 156,012 fewer miles.
- Recycling three full garbage trucks, rather than dumping them in the landfill.
And all this comes at no up-front cost to Mary. In fact, she eliminates uncertainty about future utility prices, and saves real money over the term of the lease.
Solarizing your home won’t work for everybody. State incentive programs play a major role in determining whether or not it makes economic sense. You’ll also need a sunny rooftop or an open patch of lawn. And if you rent, your landlord will have to make the final call.
But if it could make sense to you, why not look into a no-cost leased PV system for your home, business or church? If you contact us, we can provide a referral which will reduce your electric costs even further. Do it for yourself. And, of course, do it for your kids.
“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.” Ancient Indian Proverb