The following letter is from Daniel Cadzow, a Buffalo homeowner who has incorporated solar electricity into his Queen Anne Victorian style home. The coinciding video is pretty cool too, despite the part where it appears to flaunt the fact that the home resides next to the Scajaquada Expressway. One day when the expressway is downgraded, not only will the homeowner have beautiful house (circa 1882), he will also be sitting pretty with an energy efficient home.
While this is a promotional letter and video for CIR Electric, it’s still an interesting read/view for those who are considering going solar.
Author: Daniel Cadzow
1. Invest in solar (financial motivation).
There’s been a lot in the news lately about how most investments (e.g., stocks, mutual funds, 401k’s, etc.) funnel a lot of the investor’s would-be earnings into the pockets of fund managers or larger investors. Tired of watching my investments shrink, even as the overall market grew, I’ve completely divested from the market. My new strategy is to pay down all debts, be they credit cards, student loans, or mortgage and invest more creatively in my family and community’s future. The easiest way to do this has been home improvements that raise the value of our property and improve the quality of our daily life. We decided to have solar panels installed on our house, which you can see from the Scajaquada Expressway, across the street from Medaille College. Thanks to Federal and State incentives, we purchased a $23,000 system for a net cost of about $7,500. That means our property value increased by $23,000 even though we invested only $7,500. But that would only count if we sold the house now. As the system ages, the value will decrease. Luckily that is more than offset by the savings in energy.
Based on past energy consumption, our 6kW system will produce about 60% of the electricity our family of seven (four kids, two adults, and one great aunt) uses. Assuming a moderate increase in the costs of electricity, the system will have paid for itself in about five to six years. And over the lifetime of the system, about 30 years, the system should save us about $40-50,000. Our panels were manufactured by Silevo, who was recently acquired by Solar City and is moving to Riverbend right here in Buffalo, and installed by CIR Electric, a locally owned and operated company. So, our investment is also benefiting the local economy.
The entire system is warrantied for 25 years, so it’s unlikely we will have to spend much on maintenance. Because there are no moving parts to wear out, it’s likely the system will still be producing when we will eventually have to have it removed to replace the roof. It’s exciting to think about what technologies will be around then, though it will be our kids making those discoveries and decisions.
2. How Change Really Happens: (environmental motivation).
A big reason our family just went solar is simply because Federal and State incentives made it possible for us to afford it. But it was also because I firmly believe that real, substantive, and positive change rarely happens from the top down -it happens from the bottom up.
So far, our solar system has produced an average about 18.5 Kwh per day, which more or less puts us on track with those estimates. So even without the incentives the system would make financial sense. However, without the incentives, people like us could never come up with that much money up front or be able to justify the additional costs of financing another purchase we can’t at the moment afford.
One of the ethical incentives for us to go solar is that 40 to 60,000 vehicles drive by our stately, Queen Anne Victorian home every day. We hope that some of those drivers will look up and see how good the solar panels look on our roof, how we’re helping to build a clean energy grid, and think about how much money we are saving every day. We hope they will think “If they did it, what’s stopping us?”
But if we don’t make actual changes to the infrastructure where we have the most power to do so, it’s hard to be optimistic about the long term trends in our energy production and consumption. If we want to have an energy grid that is clean, green, distributed, and reliable, like several other less wealthy nations are already building, we’re going to have to build it together. Right now, building it actually saves each of us money. Putting it off will cost us and our descendants in many, many ways.
Photography and video: Norris Clifton Creative