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Friday, December 31, 2010

Leaving the Light On, Act II


I wanted to show you what I got for Christmas*. It's a 22 kilowatt photo voltaic solar array and it's just what I wanted! I haven't been this excited about a gift since that BB gun in '63 and I expect to do far less damage with this one.

Let me explain that we live here in Vermont on top of a bald hill in a great big energy sucking house crammed full of electronics, washers and driers, wood shop, voice studio, and two little kids who never met a light switch they couldn't turn on and leave that way. We use on average 200o kilowatt hours of electricity per month which has been generated by an aging nuclear plant situated about 10 miles from here, some coal plants in Ohio, and a dam in a river somewhere up in Quebec. Now it's all being generated out in our field by sunbeams. Our carbon footprint has gone from the size of a cross country snow shoe to a sporty little Keen hiker. And boy has it put some spring into my step.

I've always enjoyed sunny days. Who doesn't? But now I ADORE them. In fact I'm starting to think that this business of the sun affecting our serotonin levels is quite literal and immediate. Take this graph, for example, of our power production on Wednesday and Thursday.

On dark and cloudy Wednesday I was feeling kind of low, as illustrated above. Yesterday I sure did perk up with those clear blue skies and, presto, my mood is perfectly represented on this read-out. I can't wait to show this to my therapist if I ever get one. It could be soon. Using graphs in your blog is one of the early warning signs of trouble, I'm told.

We have what is called a grid-tie system, which means that we are still connected to the grid and selling our surplus power back to the electric company who actually pay us more for our wattage than we we pay them for theirs. It must be because ours is such a happy power. And we will produce about 20 percent more than we use on a yearly basis.

Our little monitor also tells us how much carbon emissions we have avoided. Since we went online on December 17th we have saved 1227 pounds of CO2. Think about it -- that's nearly 6 Congressmen!

I'm pretty much guaranteed to be remembered as the guy who leaves the light on everyplace he goes. It will be in my obit. It might be on my gravestone (although I've promised to haunt my family eternally if that happens) In any case, I want to add a subscript to my inevitable epitaph: "He left the light on, and didn't stink up the planet doing it!"

Oooo....the sun is coming up. I have to go. It's looking like a very good day.


*I say "gift" because Federal Tax Credits and Vermont State rebates paid for enough of the costs to make the whole thing feasible and possible. Check it out.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Kenneth said...

Probably a bit gauche to bring it up, but would you mind if we asked how much the equipment/installation cost you? I've always had the impression that it was quite costly up-front, but I'd love to hear otherwise.

Congrats!

8:21 AM  
Blogger Tom Bodett said...

Kenneth, Telling you the cost wouldn't give you much to go on. The variables in these systems are endless. I will say, happily, that with the Fed and State subsidies that the internal rate of return on the investment is around 9.5% -- better than anything else I got right now, that's for sure.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Dustin said...

Mr. Bodett, my father is looking to “spice” up his blog with similar graphical representations, depicting his own solar panel usage*. He would like to know how you get them numbers out of your panels and then into your magic computer box?

*The part about the blog is made up, the sentiment that he would be happy as a pig in poop to graph his solar stats is, however, very real. Any info you could lend to that end?

9:14 AM  
Blogger Tom Bodett said...

Dustin, Tell your father I use the Sunny Webbox made by SMA. You can google that up. It's a pretty cool thing.

1:12 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

Howdy Neighbor (we live over in West West) - might I ask who you worked with on this project? We put in three panels - not the PV kind, the heat-up-your-water kind - and we're contemplating the next step.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Bodett said...

Sarah, We worked with Integrated Solar Applications in Brat. 257-7493. Adam Thurrell is the go-to. They're great.

10:18 AM  
Blogger kate mckinnon said...

I live in Tucson, Arizona, where we have 360 sunny days per year, and a nice solar array is the first thing on my wish list.

You've inspired me.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Teresa Sundmark said...

Tom,
Great news about your solar panels! Here in Homer we're starting to see a few wind generators and solar panels pop up. And the light is coming back, so if we ever get a sunny day we'll get a little passive solar gain. I'm glad to have found your website and blog and say hello to your family!

12:14 PM  
Blogger Angelswatch said...

I know how ecstatic you felt since i myself just had solar panels installed. 27 giant panels on roof and i am sure even the astronauts have to wear sunglasses when flying over the house. Now pray for sunny days and delight in watching the power meter spin backwards. Alabama on of the last 4 holdout state though not giving net metering. Its give them 3 and they give you 1 back. what a deal huh. Pestering all the state representatives to death though in hopes they will realize the big electric company's can't pay them off enough because the public is getting wise to this takeoff in energy.
On another note, just bought your audio book It's Just like I Told You. i have never laughed so much for 4 hours straight. I may bill you for the oxygen i had to buy to keep my breath. Your truly unique in the way you present stories and remind me of an old grandpa sitting in front of his grand kids spinning a story of days gone by.
One last note.....May 21st came and went and i like you was left hanging with credit cards maxed out. Oh well maybe next time. I think it's new date is Oct 21st because of another mathematical error. Not sure if we're suppose to gather together to hitch a ride on a comet or what yet. I'll keep you posted.

9:58 AM  

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