Lessons Learned With Solar Energy
by Bob Hance on Friday, October 2, 2020
Tom is one of our long-time electric customers. Earlier this year, the 70-year old retired teacher invested in 24 solar panels from a national solar energy dealer to power his home, and those were installed in June. He took a 20-year loan and is paying $175 per month for a total investment of $42,000. Like many, Tom was led to believe his investment would pay for itself, but his August bill reflected only $108 in savings. He now realizes he will not live to see his investment pay off.
Stories like this make me so angry. These companies use aggressive and misleading sales techniques, promising something to hopeful homeowners that usually never comes to fruition, at least in this part of the country. I took a closer look at this particular company and they are currently promoting a “solar stimulus program,” offering a $2000 cash incentive to “help families in these uncertain times prepare for their future.” The image in the promotion shows a $100 bill coming out of the electric meter.
They’ve taken already unsavory sales tactics to a new low, preying on people during a time of unprecedented fear and uncertainty. And who loses? The good, trusting people like Tom.
I am not attempting to bash residential renewable energy. Some folks have a genuine interest in doing their part to make a positive impact on the environment and choose to make the investment, fully understanding they may never see a financial return. My issue is with the many players in the renewable industry who promise something they know they can’t always deliver.
We have about 100 solar installations on our system. We’re happy to work with customers who are interested in offsetting their energy use with their own generation, and I believe more and more people will begin to consider distributed generation as technology advances and prices go down. However, I encourage you to do your homework, ask the hard questions, and make sure you understand what you’re getting in to with the retailers before you sign on the dotted line.
If you’re interested in making a positive contribution to the environment without a huge upfront investment, we offer an alternative. Michigan’s electric cooperatives are the state’s leader in new renewable energy and one of the tools in our collective toolbox is SpartanSolar, a community solar program that allows cooperative electric customers to participate in meaningful renewable generation without taking on the time, cost and ongoing maintenance of a residential installation. One of SpartanSolar’s two arrays is located right on our property in Cassopolis. Learn more about the community solar program on page 9.
I wish we could turn back the clock on Tom’s experience, and only hope sharing his story will help someone else.