I have a confession to make. Even though I live in a part of Denver particularly proud of its green credentials, I don’t consider myself green.
As a single parent, I have other priorities—like health care, summer camps and take out. I don’t have extra cash for buying local artisanal cheese and organic sprouts, let alone solar panels or hybrid cars.
So how, exactly, do I find myself driving a Toyota Prius and getting 80% of my electricity from the sun? It seems being green is cheaper – and easier – than I thought.
When it was time to trade in my ’96 Accord, I wanted something that got better gas mileage. After looking into mid-sized sedans, I discovered most got about 22 mpg, no more than my old wagon. Then I looked at economy cars. While they got better gas mileage, there was no way I was going to fit my kids, two dogs and a stray neighbor kid in one of those.
At the same time, I was hearing news about Iran threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz and the potential for a gas price hike, so I was committed to finding something that got excellent mileage. Which is why I started looking seriously at a hybrid vehicle. Within a few short weeks, I was the proud owner of a (gently used) Prius. Since most of my driving is around town, I haven’t achieved the 50 mpg touted by Toyota. But I’m way above the 22 mpg mark.
Not too soon after, I met a dynamic young salesman on my front sidewalk. He started off by complimenting me on my home’s perfect southern orientation (who wouldn’t be flattered?). He mentioned that I had enough roof surface to sport an array large enough to produce 80% of my electricity needs. When I dismissed his pitch by admitting I couldn’t afford the investment, he explained how I could lease the solar array. It sounded too good to be true, but he was young, ardent and cute, so I listened. I’m glad I did.
With no upfront cost, the company installed solar panels on my house and garage, along with all the technical gear needed. They were respectful of my property and my dogs and worked with my energy company (yes, the very company I work for) to get the system up and running.
It works like this: My home pulls energy first from the electricity generated by my solar panels. If I need more than they produce, then it pulls from Xcel Energy’s grid. I pay the solar company $40 a month for the energy from the solar panels and I pay Xcel Energy for any electricity I get from them. But if I don’t use it all, I sell it back to my utility.
So far, I’ve avoided the equivalent of 10,000+ pounds of carbon. And, my energy bill is lower than in previous years.
In a matter of months, a few small changes made a big impact – for me and the environment. And while I still spend far too much time thinking about take out, perhaps I can now consider myself a little green after all.
Article appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.