Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Making Portland a Solar City

In a residential area of unincorporated Washington County, west of Portland Oregon, there is a house that is now solar powered.

The owner, Doug, said that the large south-facing roof screamed "SOLAR!!" when he and his wife moved in 10 years ago. The normal bills of life and the quick arrival of two children meant that the solar scream dream would have to wait.

That changed when Doug read about SolarCity in this blog. He researched it and signed up for a program that offered him solar energy for less than what he was paying for wind power and with no money down. "Solar was not something that we could afford. The panels alone would have cost about one-third of the house price. Electricity is cheap here so I could never make that work. However, this program made it a no-brainer for a place like my roof."

We asked Doug a few questions about his experience.

CelticSolar: What does your family think about this?
Doug: My family is all environmentally aware so they all think it’s pretty cool. My favorite moment so far is when my son said “Daddy, with the panels we could turn our house into a space station!”

CS: How big is the system?
D: It’s just under 8kW. The installers said it’s about 3x the size of what they normally do. There are 36 panels (Kyocera I believe) so it should be good for a watt or two.

CS: How does this align with your values?
D: I would like to leave a legacy of stewardship and responsibility to my children. I want to be an example to them. I felt it was the right thing to do. SolarCity allowed me to do this while still keeping the costs down. Why every house in LA or Arizona and why the whole Sunbelt isn’t covered in panels is a real failure of mankind. We have the technology, we know this stuff is helpful for a ton of reasons (emissions, reduced dependency on oil nations, better supply distribution) but we still don’t get it. It kills me.

CS: This is installed in Oregon, is there enough sunshine in Oregon to make it worthwhile? (see the clouds in the photos)
D: While it was overcast and raining, during the test phase of the install it still generated 400W. Even a tiny amount like that is still energy that is not from burning coal or gas. Every little bit helps. And Oregon doesn’t have THAT bad of weather. Look at my garden. When I bought the house that was a deck, and I took it out because there is no shade at my house and it would get killer hot out there during the summer. I’ll be making some juice even during the winter. With an array the size of mine it won’t take much sun to make a positive outcome.

come with
a label"

CS: Do you consider yourself an environmentalist, an eco-geek, or other?
D: I consider myself a realist. Doing what’s right shouldn’t come with a label.

CS: How will this change your electricity use?
D: We are already responsible energy users. We have all CFC for lighting and when they die I’ll probably put in LED lighting. Best of all, now we'll be able to play solar powered Rock Band!
Power Line Park: South-facing view from the property

CS: What did you think of the install crew?
D: The team was great. They worked three days, rain or shine, and kept me in the loop at all times. They put up with my nosing around, and they left the work area in good shape. They always practiced safety protocols, and that made me feel better since I knew they were safe (unlike some roof repairer we had last year).

CS: What would you say to someone else that is considering SolarCity?
D: If you have any doubts about working with them, I can only tell you my experience has been great. Professional, patient (I asked lots of stupid questions) and even kept after it when the rules in Oregon changed. I’m very happy.

The output will continue to be meager throughout the winter. In the spring and summer, however, this system will be able to power his entire house and feed the grid during peak sun hours. You can see the energy produced by Doug's PV system here. Φ

1 comment:

  1. Doug the person profiled here, I would like to also give major Kudos to Pat and CelticSolar for being a great resource for making sure I wasn't doing anything too stupid. Thanks Pat!!


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