When the Dear Friend & Conscience bought the mountain retreat nearly three years ago, it had many charms: Situated between a ridgeline that is a flyway for 12 species of raptors and a 38,000-acre wildlife refuge that is home to more species than you can count, the ranch house is Plain Jane on the outside but roomy on the inside and even more so since we've knocked down a wall and installed large energy-efficient casement windows and sliders that let in the stunning views and sunlight year round while keeping out the heat and cold.
The house had another advantage as well: By my crude reckoning, the back of the roof is nearly Solar South, making the house a good candidate for an electricity-generating passive solar power system.
Timing being everything, this summer seemed to be advantageous for taking the solar plunge. Thanks to the Obama administration, the feds are offering extraordinarily generous tax rebates for homeowners who go solar. And thanks to Ed Rendell, an Obama pal and governor of Pennsylvania, the state also is offering extraordinarily generous rebates.
A guy from a well-known international firm did a solar audit on the house last month.
The house is indeed nearly Solar South, being a mere 7 percent from the ideal. His conclusion, reinforced by an old friend in Colorado who has been building solar houses since 1972, is that we can generate more than enough electricity to meet need our needs with a 28-panel photovoltaic array on the back of the roof. The array will be wired through to a converter and two-way meter in our basement utility room.
The total cost of the installation is not cheap, but solar cell prices have plummeted in recent years with increased demand and improved manufacturing techniques. The DF&C is signed up for a lease-to-buy program and after a reasonable time the system will be hers.
And there is a big bonus: The reason that the meter is two-way is that under Pennsylvania law, from Day One the local power company will be required to buy the unused electricity that is generated, meaning that their end of the meter will literally run backwards. A beautiful thing, or what?
There are a limited number of slots for Pennsylvania homeowners. If you are one and are interested in learning more, drop me an email and I'll point you in the right direction.