Driving out to visit Vicki Hitchcock on a sunny April afternoon, I was surprised to find considerable patches of snow still covering the hills of Randolph, NY. As I pulled into her driveway I could see the two big solar panels mounted in her backyard, the subject of my visit. She greeted me and as we strolled over to the panels she talked about her girls, clearly happy with her decision.
Vicki chose to have her solar panels installed in September 2009 by Solar Liberty. She and her husband had considered it for a number of years. After his death and upon seeing the installation of solar panels at the Jamestown Audubon Society, Vicki and her son Jake decided it was finally time. Other than to save money on energy costs, Vicki said her major motivations for making the investment were to reduce her environmental impact and to reduce our overall dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Rather than the somewhat more common roof-mounted panels Hitchcock chose to install two pole-mounted panels in her back yard. The reason she chose pole-mounted over roof-mounted was mainly because she had the space, living on a large piece of land in a rural area, and also in case there was ever a need to repair her roof, as the roof-mounted panels would have to be removed. The panels need almost no maintenance and are estimated to last for at least 25 years, although Vicki checks on hers frequently to make sure the gauge is working and in the winter time she frequently brushes off the snow in order allow them to get maximum sunlight.
One of the major prohibiting factors many people face when looking to install solar panels is the cost, and though Vicki’s panels were still a considerable investment the project was made much more feasible thanks to help from the New York State Energy Research and Development Association (NYSERDA) and tax credits from the federal government. The project cost $42,000 in total, but with the $20,000 from NYSERDA, a three-year credit on her federal tax return and the amount of money saved in energy costs Vicki’s savings will cover her investment in about 8 years.
The amount of money Vicki saves on her electricity costs is considerable. Prior to the installation of the panels her electric bills ran from about $120 in the summer to $150 in the winter, including usage from the house as well an adjacent barn and shop building. Now that the panels are installed her summer time bill is only $17.04—the delivery cost charged to all National Grid customers. During these months any energy Vicki’s panels produce that she does not use allows her to build up energy credits, which she can then apply to her bills as the days grow less sunny. This past year her credits allowed her to cover her full bill through November. The rest of the winter her bills are still reduced considerably.
Vicki Hitchcock is happy to talk to anyone who is considering installing solar panels on a home or is just interested in learning more. You can contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 716-358-4106.