Going Solar on Earth Day


Thanks to Maryland's energy policies, Vivint Solar is installing 17 panels on my roof that will provide most of our power from now on. This is a quick job, already well on its way to completion as you can see below (the firecracker-red-painted highlights are my daughter's idea, btw).

The job is relative quick and painless in part because of the exposure to goodly amounts of sunlight. The house faces east, illumination thereby pleasantly floods several rooms every morning. I'm also happy to report that its easy because we've made a lot of improvements since we bought the place a decade ago. Better insulation, energy-efficient lightbulbs, new doors and windows, and other incremental changes mean fewer panels needed. Thanks to OPower's partnership with our utility (Pepco) we can tell how much less energy we use than comparable homes. Below is a recent grade we got from this partnership. Strangely - but predictably according to the behavioral science research - my family finds the double-smiley-faces gratifying.


Getting our power from sunlight is also exciting because a few years ago we upgraded to a pluggable car that's part of Toyota's Prius lineup. We were able to swing this thanks to financial tools provided by our state and federal governments (see more on the facts about and NRDC's advocacy for such incentives in this handy fact sheet). While it doesn't have the range of an increasing number of snazzy EVs in the market now, our location-efficient suburban location, just blocks away from the last stop on D.C.'s Metro subway system, means most of our daily driving fits into that envelope. So most of our household's vehicle-miles-of-travel will also be covered by the sun.

And of course, it's also nice that we only have to own one vehicle, since I use the rail system that's just a stone's throw away from our house. This is true both for environmental and financial reasons. Even a pluggable car is an asset which, unlike a home, relentlessly depreciates in value the minute you drive it off the sales lot (pretty smart of my colleague Amanda to one-up me by going entirely car-free recently).

It's taken a decade to locate to a transit-oriented neighborhood, improve our home to be more energy-efficient, switch to a pluggable car, and go solar. Incrementally, step-by-step, we've reduced our footprint. And we've done it thanks to good government programs and the entrepreneurial companies that have capitalized on that policy context to develop and deliver better products and business models. I urge everyone to support such public policies and private practices in your neck of the woods.

Happy Earth Day!