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The Mast-Head: Sly Solar Grin

Thu, 01/12/2023 - 10:04

In the six or seven years since we had a 240-volt electric vehicle charger installed at The Star, only one staff member other than me has seized the opportunity. It is not easy to say why. Fear of the unknown, perhaps. Free mileage from home to work and back and for all your errands! No other takers.

For me, having had two successive plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, a Chevrolet Volt and, now, a Honda Clarity, the essentially free-to-me fuel in the form of electrons is deeply satisfying. Similarly, rooftop solar on the early-1960s house I grew up in and live in now provides me with another reason to gloat: electric bills that run a steady $14 a month.

Backing up to the beginning of my interest in a solar installation, it was a similar sense of sly glee that I got from a homeowner down the road during an alternative-energy open-house weekend that got me going. I wanted to get that same smirk for myself.

I met with a sales representative of the company recommended by the town in an UpIsland Starbucks, signed a contract, and half a year later the panels showed up in my driveway.

All in, the 5-kilowatt system cost about $20,000 before a tax rebate, which seems to be a bit of Hamptons premium above the national going rate of about $2.60 a watt for residential projects. I suspect that some solar companies jacked their rates up once the tax rebates went into effect. Nonetheless, solar is still worth the expense — and better for the planet.

During the installation, an electrician noticed that the house still had its original breaker panel, a dangerous model known for causing devastating fires. That got replaced for an additional $1,100.

I jumped out of my office chair when the first of the new PSEG Long Island statements arrived in the email and did a little dance, accompanied by that sly solar grin.

I made payments on a loan for maybe a year, then did the math and decided to pay the note off in full. With the pre-solar monthly bills running $250 a month or more, it made sense for the household cash flow. The house uses less than it produces, with the excess flowing into the grid to help supply our non-solar neighbors.

There are plenty of firms offering solar installation on Long Island. My advice is to ask for competing bids and ask in advance about any hidden extras, such as reroofing or replacing a house’s existing wiring. But, that said, just do it.

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