Generating your own electricity and saving money with solar panels on your roof is an exciting prospect. But it can also feel daunting. That’s why back in 2015 I was thrilled to learn about a group working here in Chestertown to help people go solar, the Chestertown Solar Co-op. I had been thinking about going solar for several years, but was a little nervous since I really did not know much about it. My husband and I had the help of the co-op to guide us through the process from day one. The group helped more than a dozen people go solar and is looking to increase that number with a new round this year.
One of our very first questions was whether we even had enough daylight to make solar a viable option. The co-op partnered with MD SUN (Maryland Solar United Neighborhoods) – a non-profit that works to assemble a group of residents who are interested in solar in towns and cities throughout Maryland. MD SUN reviewed our roof and the available sunshine using satellite imagery to see if we qualified. They held meetings for those of us in the Chestertown group to ask questions and get additional information when needed.
MD SUN worked with us to develop and send out a Request for Proposals to solar companies to solicit bids to serve the group. They then put together a small committee to review those bids and select the final contractor. Because the Co-op consisted of many residents, the contractor bids were significantly below normal cost which added to the financial incentives for going solar through the co-op!
Once the work was completed the group’s selected installer helped us submit our application for the State of Maryland $1,000 grant for solar installations. More significantly, we were able to take a federal tax credit for about a third of the total cost of the project. The power produced by our solar system reduces the amount of electricity we need to draw (and pay for) from our local utility. In addition, we receive periodic payments from utilities which take credit for our production to meet their renewable energy requirements.
Our system also came with a web-based app that lets us monitor our energy production in real time. We can see our production of energy on an hourly, daily, monthly, and yearly basis and compare it with previous periods. And because our electric meter records how much electricity we draw from the grid and how much we generate ourselves, our monthly bill shows what our production was and how much we saved.
Going solar has enabled us have some control over where our electricity comes from, a clean source that is providing us a financial return. We will have paid off our solar system within 10 years of the system’s 25-year lifespan. A win–win–win from my perspective!
What are you waiting for – see if solar energy works for you. A new round of the Chestertown Solar Co-op is starting this summer. More information is available at www.mdsun.org/chestertown. The folks supporting this second Chestertown Solar Co-op will lead you and your neighbors gently through the process!
If you want to learn more there are two public information sessions being held in Chestertown Town Hall, 118 N. Cross St., June 1, at 7 p.m. and June 3 at 11 a.m.