I am a mechanical engineer and licensed home inspector in upstate NY. I have a strong passion for making the world a better place through green and sustainable initiatives. Solar PV is one simple way to do this. I am in the process of installing a PV array with Real Goods Solar on my current home in East Greenbush, NY. Through net metering I will be able to supply excess energy that I do not use back to the grid so that others can utilize the surplus energy. Working in the power generation energy I know the negative impacts coal and fossil powered plants have on the world (global warming and impacts to our climate from Carbon emissions is devastating and a reality Americans need to do something about, since we are the largest consumers of fossil fueled based energy). I am looking to take a large portion of the salary I make working for these power plants (to make them more efficient) and put it to better use in local green energy initiatives. Once I am done updating my current home I plan to rent it (utilities included from the pv) to an environmentally friendly family that is not yet able to purchase their own home. The rental is only 14 years old and due to my other energy efficient measures has low annual energy costs so the family should be able to save month over month when compared to the cheap uninsulated apartments in the area (which don’t include utilities). This will reduce the carbon footprint all while enabling the tenant to save the energy costs associated with a 3BR 2BA 1700 Sq Ft home.
With my current home rented I will begin building a sustainability “compound” on 11 acres of land with 700ft of creek frontage. This compound will integrate all of the most efficient green building science concepts along with the latest green energy systems available today (of which includes another array to be designed and installed by Real Goods Solar). After all of the design and implementation is completed the home will hopefully set the standard for the future of affordable large scale residential sustainable living in the northeastern US. Fortunately there will be enough land and resources at my disposal to incorporate solar PV, Solar hot water, multiple smaller scale wind turbines (VAWT and HAWT) as well as micro-hydro power. After reading John Schaeffer’s special 30th anniversary edition of the Real Goods Solar Living Source Book (and 10 or so of the books referenced within) I am now more convinced/excited than ever to do the right thing and make the world a better place. I would like to personally thank John and the entire Real Goods team on the unparalleled work they have and continue to do in helping make a difference in the fight to reduce carbon footprints and in turn making the world a better place. Thank you!
Why I chose Real Goods over other PV installation companies. It was simple, best VALUE! I am an engineer and I have a spreadsheet for just about every aspect of life that can be data driven. After speaking with ~6 installers (Real Goods being the first company based on the initiative taken locally by Len Armer at a home show) I began to gather data on all factors, of which included cost/output ($/kw-h) of the system, type of panel/inverter, efficiency, warranty information on system and installation, financing options, customer service, technical capability of staff members, organization and the list goes on. After about 3 months of gathering data, having on site evaluations performed, Running ROI studies and accounting for all the other factors I decided to select Real Goods Solar for the installation. Real Goods simply offered the best overall system at the lowest price ($/kw-h) with the best customer service and technical advice hands down. Len Armer and the team up to this point has really shined in comparison to the other companies I have dealt with. Kudos to them on the excellent job so far. I am really excited to get the first system installed in East Greenbush and then the second on the new home.
Feedback to Real Goods to stay competitive in a tough economy…
The only struggle I had in making the decision was the financing part of the equation. This is the only aspect of the evaluation that Real Goods fell short relative to the competition. Other solar companies are offering comparable systems with minimal out of pocket expense with zero percent financing with a small monthly payment which is paid back from the energy savings each month. Fortunately for Real Goods I am still able to afford the best system (from the best company) without financing. My point is that many families want to do the right thing in getting solar installed however lending is really tight and not many people can justify or have the money in savings to install the system and a new roof (most likely needed). Many homeowners do not put forth nearly the amount of effort in the entire system evaluation and they simply look at the ROI and most importantly upfront out of pocket expense. Simply put, many clients will choose the company offering the best financing and the lowest initial out of pocket expense even though the PV system they are purchasing produces less energy, is substandard in comparison to the technical offering of Real Goods and typically costs more overall. Once Real Goods is able to get the financing in line with the competition there is no question in my mind that from a competitive assessment standpoint they shouldn’t be able to win every proposal provided to the client (assuming a logical client of course).
In closing I just wanted to say thank you Len and the team for the great work and guidance/insight they have provided to me over the past 3 or so months. I look forward to working on this project and many more to come with the Real Goods team. Keep up the fantastic work!