By Sharon Derby, Solar-Powered Homeowner and Director of Marketing & PR for Solar Energy World
Since my childhood, I have always been interested in the arts and sciences and, due to my passion for the outdoors, am drawn to environmental conservation in particular. I am an avid boater, photographer, and a member of The Audubon Society. I volunteer at the Maryland Zoo, help Restore Rock Creek members to clean up the beaches in Pasadena every spring, and request family donations to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in lieu of Christmas presents every winter. As a voter, I’m very interested in the policies of our local politicians on environmental issues.
May 18, 2015, was my first day on the job as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Solar Energy World. After a couple of days getting settled into my new routine, I had a chat with Carol Davidson, our Inside Sales team leader. She was very friendly and easy to talk to, so when she suggested we check my house to see if it would be a viable property for solar power, I was intrigued and gave her my address. After she pulled up an aerial shot of my property on the internet, she turned to me and excitedly exclaimed, “Sharon, your house is PERFECT for solar!”
I’d never really thought about solar before but it made sense for my husband and me. We have always been careful about our power consumption by using as little as possible and upgrading our siding, doors, windows, lightbulbs and appliances to energy-efficient products, so I decided to talk to him about it. He is also very supportive of protecting our climate and agreed it would be a wise investment as a consumer but said he wanted to wait until we had paid down the equity loan for the other home improvements. He made a sensible point, so I dropped the issue.
About two years later, the loan was paid off and it was time to think about replacing the roof on our home. The cost of solar panels had dropped considerably over the 24 months since I had joined the company, so I decided to bring up the subject again. I was thrilled that he was sincerely interested in discussing it further with an experienced analyst!
At work the next day, I told my coworker Eric Winkler, who had been to our house before when we gave a presentation to our community organization that we were ready to move forward and see a true proposal. He gave us a design for the panels to optimize the sunniest side of our house and even included a cost estimate for a new roof which made it even easier for us to figure out the numbers. Within a few days, we had signed the paperwork and were celebrating our decision to go solar! We sat on the front porch that night during a serious downpour enjoying a cocktail, when suddenly I said to him what I was thinking, “I hope the rain isn’t really loud on the panels.”
Then everything just started happening without us initiating any of the steps. Our home was inspected the same week to determine if there were any issues that may need to be addressed before the installation so Ali Shariati, the company’s structural engineer could approve the design of the system. Thanks to the working relationship Solar Energy World has with our sister-company Homefix Custom Remodeling, the roof was replaced and the dates for the system installation was booked.
Around that time Maryland fell into a very dry spell with no rain at all for about three weeks. The panels were put on the roof by a team that my neighbor called the hardest working guys he’s ever seen. One of the quality control advisors stopped by and explained what would happen next and how we would turn on the system once we received permission to operate. At work the next day, John Stokes the company Permit Specialist, asked me what day that week would be convenient for the county inspector to drop by and we settled on two days later. That event came and went without any problems so early the next week, I received an Interconnection Certificate of Completion from Interconnection Specialist, Erica Shafer, which meant our solar system had passed Anne Arundel county inspection. We knew it wouldn’t be long before we would be soaking up the sun!
Waiting for BGE to replace our old utility meter with a net meter was the hardest part. We were about two weeks into the drought and expected them to take longer than the 15 days they estimated. We thought we would lose power while they switched over the devices and would need to reset all the electronics in the house and dreaded it. Well, we were wrong. It was even easier than I thought it would be because in under two weeks the meters had been swapped out without us even knowing about it and I received a notice that we had permission to operate!
I rushed home after work ready to flip the switch but decided to wait until my husband got home too. The sun was going down but I really wanted him to be there for the big moment and I needed to water our dry gardens. When he finally got home, we went outside to the box with a flashlight and turned it on. Some lights flashed but that was it. I don’t know what we expected would happen but we looked at each other, shrugged and went inside to have dinner.
About ten days later the rain finally came. We knew we needed it since the last 45 days had been bone dry but we yearned for the sun to come out every morning and shine on our new roof top array. As we sat down to eat dinner that night, we expected to hear a loud rumble as the rain fell on the glass panels. I said to my husband, “Listen to that!”. He looked at me and cocked his head. I just smiled and pointed to the roof. We couldn’t hear it at all!
To read part one of my solar journey click here.
Have questions for me? Send me an email: [email protected]