I don’t love the look of solar panels. In fact, I think they’re downright ugly. But appearances don’t mean a lot in this era of needing to develop more sustainable resources. Over the last couple of decades, it’s become customary to see solar panels affixed to rooftops and in solar farms on the ground. Incentives for solar investment have come and some have gone. Politics, demand and other factors still make the upfront solar investment very expensive. But a number of concerns have been weighing on me.
First, I just couldn’t face another anguished moment at the post office, opening my power bill, only to melt down right then and there over the amount. In the summer I keep the house at around 76 degrees, that is, if I can keep my husband and son from messing with the thermostat. Still, our power bills are high.
When we designed our house 15 years ago, we built 10-foot porches to create shade. We invested in a system of geothermal wells to bring the temperature of underground water-filled pipes into our heating and cooling units. But my high power bills have made me doubtful of its efficacy.
Second, government and utility enticements and tax breaks are tapering off for folks who elect to build and utilize solar energy. Big business is partly to blame, as is politics. We are getting in on some tax rebates that are slated to end in a year or so. It seems that many of our decision-makers want to dig up and burn every last chunk of coal before they move on to other sources of energy. I understand the concerns of people in neighboring Emery and Carbon counties whose economies and livelihoods depend on mining, but at some point the coal is going to be gone, just as Moab’s uranium industry went away, both leaving environmental messes in their wakes.
Third, peer pressure is a factor. Many people I know and admire have incorporated solar power into their homes and businesses, and their visible investments are testament to their confidence in it. More and more often, I notice more and more solar panels, seeing them added to aging buildings and to new construction.
My husband and I were able to take a short tour of eastern Europe last November. We noticed a culture of sustainability and frugality and compared it to our consumer-driven country where energy—from gasoline to power—is relatively cheap. We happened to meet some Americans who were attending a global sustainable energy convention in Prague, and I asked them a lot of questions. Days later, while floating down the Danube River, we passed by hundreds of old stone houses along the shores, capped with old roofs that had new solar tiles all over them. The quaint village look was replaced with a smart look. I didn’t like the look, but I wanted to have those things on my house.
Upon our return home, we began researching various solar providers and had several different companies from throughout Utah and Colorado work up bids for us. They all came in within a couple thousand dollars of one another. We elected to spend our investment locally, and went with a Moab company that was easy and professional to work with. They ordered panels from Germany, began work in March, and were all done within a couple of weeks.
The proof of the project will soon be evident, as we have just finished up that nice time of year when temperatures are moderate. Up until a couple of weeks ago we haven’t needed heat or cooling. I’ve thrown the windows open at night to let in the fresh, cool air, and closed up the house in the morning.
I don’t look forward to the hot summer nights ahead, when I can’t leave the windows open to the sound of crickets and scent of honeysuckle. But I am looking forward to getting my next power bill and seeing how the new project stacks up. I know it will take many years to pay off our investment in solar panels, but I’m hoping to be a little less aggravated when I open my power bill, and when someone else messes with the thermostat.