Solarize Spotlight: Bob & Kathy

solarize kirklandBob and Kathy Forgrave are just one of forty-one Kirkland households who installed solar at home in 2015 through the Solarize Kirkland program. Here’s their solar story, in Bob’s words:

From Interest to Imperative

Our interest in solar built slowly. First it was hypothetical, thinking about how we could be powering our house on sunny days, if only… Then it was grounded in reality, as we got a $200 solar-powered attic fan that gently whirred away, cooling a hot attic at no charge on sunny days. Finally, we got an emissionless Nissan Leaf, which felt like a great environmental investment until we realized that, as PSE customers, 1/3 of our electric power actually came from one of the biggest polluting coal facilities in the country (currently using the aquifer under Colstrip, Montana to store their coal ash waste). We were driving a semi-coal-powered car!

It was now essential that we invest in residential solar power, once we figured out exactly how that process worked.

Evaluating Options with Solarize Kirkland

Enter Solarize Kirkland. It combined an informed contractor vetting process with free custom solar assessments and a community discount. The fact that the payback period was now under 6 years was really surprising. PSE was even a partner in the installation and operational process. The program made so much sense that we visited neighborhood picnics to share info about Solarize Kirkland even as our own system was winding through the process from solar assessment to system bid to accepted contract and finished system.

At first, we considered a small solar array, discreetly nestled into the slightly sunny upper reaches of the back roof, overlooking our tree-encircled shady back yard. In retrospect, that was not at all practical, as the custom assessment numbers showed. So finally we went all-in, with a 32-module, 9kW system that covers much of our front roof and some of the back, yet accommodates the moving shadows of some tall Douglas firs.

Bob and Kathy solar panels EDIT

Immediate Results, Even in Fall!

Even with a late September installation, our meter was almost immediately running backward during the daytime, except for one perplexing sunny afternoon when it ran at normal speed the other direction. The reason was immediately clear as I entered the house to the enchanting aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! Some things in life are worth an occasional energy usage bump…

Five fall and winter months into this system usage, we have produced 1.4 megawatt hours of free energy — except that we’re also getting paid for it, so it’s better than free. From a CO2 standpoint, that’s like planting 51 trees, not burning 115 gallons of gas, or not having the coal plants at PSE add 2.2 TONS of CO2 to the atmosphere. It’s a really good feeling already, and we haven’t even hit the best months of the year for this system.

As grizzled solar veterans with almost 180 days under our belts, we can share four certainties about solar:

  1. Prices for solar cells and inverters continue to fall, making this the best time yet to take the plunge.
  2. Solarize Kirkland is the smoothest way to evaluate solar against your needs, unique roof angles, and sunlight access.
  3. This is the only remodel that pays you back for decades (even if politicians in Olympia keep futzing with the net metering reimbursement rates).
  4. If everyone in Kirkland alone did this, Puget Sound Energy could decommission both of its coal-burning generators in Montana.

Thank you Bob and Kathy for sharing your solar story! You can also read Stan’s solar story.

We’re thrilled that the Solarize Kirkland program has been extended through 2016. Workshops are available May through August to learn about adding solar at your home — register now!