By Susan Nolan
Americans are increasingly in favor of solar energy. According to Lexie Pelchen, editor of Forbes Home, a division of Forbes Magazine, 12 percent of all American homes are currently utilizing energy generated by the sun to power their homes. Another 48 percent of homeowners say they want to install solar panels in the future. So, what keeps many of them from taking the plunge? Money—36 percent of those same homeowners said the initial cost is prohibitive and keeps them relying on traditional energy sources.
According to Rick Peters of Solar Energy Services Inc., a Millersville-based business specializing in both commercial and residential solar energy, the cost should not scare potential solar customers. “We’ve got so much work to do on our energy transition. The technology is here and ready—and affordable,” he says. Peters recommends homeowners look into Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs for both commercial and residential properties. These programs allow consumers to invest in solar without the large initial cash expense.
This past spring, Solar Energy Services worked with K&B True Value Hardware in Annapolis to replace older solar panels with larger, more efficient ones.
Jared Littman, owner of K&B Hardware, is a lifelong environmentalist. He has an engineering degree in environmental policy and a law practice specializing in environmental issues. As an alderman for Ward 5 in the City of Annapolis, he chaired the Environmental Matters Committee and led the effort to pass the city’s first Forest Conservation Act and No Net Loss (of trees) policy.
Littman and his wife Marlene Niefeld purchased K&B True Value from her parents in 2008. In 2012, after installing their first solar panels, their electric bill dropped $6,000 annually. The new, larger system eliminates their electric bill completely, says Littman. “These (new) panels have already produced—in three months—double the amount of electricity that my home solar panel array has produced in two years,” he says.
“Solar should be added to many more rooftops because it makes such good sense from both an economic and energy conservation perspective,” says Littman. “After only three months of operation, these (new) panels have already produced 45.8 MWh of power, thus saving 70,900 pounds of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of 536 trees planted. Those benefits will continue for the next 25 years.”
Littman plans to install battery backup in the future, so that the store can function independently of the electric grid. When a power outage occurs, the hardware store can remain open and continue to serve the community. K&B True Value is also considering offering a charging station for electric vehicles to power up with electricity generated by the solar array.
Littman hopes his commitment to reducing his own carbon footprint will serve as an inspiration to others. “Small business owners are leaders in the community,” he says. “As leaders, we have a responsibility to set good examples. My hope is that this project will get more people thinking about solar for their homes and businesses, in addition to getting people to advocate for more solar on other buildings like schools, government office buildings, and garages.”
For more information about PACE, visit energy.gov/eere/slsc/property-assessed-clean-energy-programs.