Two years ago I dragged my somewhat reluctant family out on the 2014 Pittsburgh Solar Tour. Spurred on by the Solarize Allegheny campaign, I figured we should look into this for ourselves. I was pleasantly surprised that there were several solar installations on houses around our neighbourhood.
I only managed to drag them to two or three different houses close to ours in Point Breeze, but even from that small number and a few chats and online exchanges I had with friends afterwards, it was clear that people install solar for different reasons and with different levels of technological grasp over exactly how it works.
There were the solar geeks who knew every data-point about their system, the expected production rates and who had the print outs of how much power they had produced each week, month and year since installation. There were those that were quite proud of the fact that they had no idea how it worked but were glad that it did. There were those whose main motivation was to do the right thing by the environment—replacing dirty power with clean and reducing their carbon footprint. There were also the sceptics, influenced only by the economics, that tried to persuade me it wasn’t worth the outlay.
But when the tour rolled around a year later, I didn’t need to drag my family out of the house for the solar tour—we were on the solar tour. In May 2015, we had a solar system installed—it took less than a week—and ever since it was switched on a week or so later it has been working away generating free clean energy.
So why did I decide to install solar? Probably a combination of reasons. Reducing our family’s impact on the environment was one the main one. Whilst the detailed specs of the system are fading a bit from my memory now, I still frequently look on my cell phone and monitor the electricity production.
I like that my kids are growing up knowing that changes can be made to help the environment. I like the fact that they notice solar panels wherever we come across them.
The system will take a long while to pay off (in our case 13 years), but I see this the same way as other investments in a house—you invest in the way that works for you. How many new kitchens are expected to pay for themselves? Right from the first month, we have not paid for any electricity from the grid!
I like the way it has made our family so energy conscious that we actually made more energy than we used over the first year, better than was predicted from our previous consumption.
Point Breeze turned out to be the leading neighbourhood in the Solarize Allegheny campaign and the only one to reach the goal of doubling solar installations. I am proud of being a part of that, and I love seeing more signs going up all over the neighbourhood showing that this trend is increasing.
I am truly a supporter of solar power. But you don’t need to believe me—get out on the 2016 Pittsburgh Solar Tour this Saturday, 1st October, ask your own questions, and find out for yourself.
Louise Taylor's home will be on the Pittsburgh Solar Tour again this year along with several other Point Breeze and Point Breeze North residences. Homes and businesses in Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, and East Liberty are also on the tour. Included on the tour map for the first time are four green roofs that have been created in Pittsburgh. Visit the Pittsburgh Solar Tour website for more information and to see a map with the location of homes and businesses within Pittsburgh and in surrounding communities. Three mapped bike loops are included, along with a list of sustainable restaurants. You can download a free Pittsburgh Solar Tour Mobile App at the website.
The current edition of Print: Pittsburgh's East End Newspaper has an article about Point Breeze North resident Fred Kraybill's outlook on the future of solar power and green energy generally. Only the beginning of the article is available online. Subscriptions can be purchased at Print or look for for the publication at various locations throughout the East End.