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My solar panels and life without a car 159 comments

My solar panel’s are making energy!!

I am thrilled to report that PEPCO (my local electric company) finally installed my solar meter and hooked up my solar panels to the grid. So, I am now actually receiving the energy generated by my panels. I can monitor how much energy is being made in real time on my laptop or phone. I have also signed up with a company that will sell on the market the Solar Energy Renewable Credits (SRECs) that I generate. I will get my first check in August. I will probably receive over $3,500 per year from the sale of SRECS in DC for the first three years after installation of my panels. I could have received $10,000 for upfront sale of all the SRECS, but decided to get my money quarterly as that is more financially advantageous. Most exciting, I just filed my 2014 tax return and am getting a tax credit of over $7,000 for the cost of installing my panels! The 30% federal tax credit is a very nice incentive and I do hope it gets renewed next year.

I haven’t yet seen a reduction on my electric bill from my panels, because they only start giving credit once I generate a certain amount of energy. As I have only been online since March, I have not yet generated so much solar energy. But the summer is coming, and I am hoping to make a lot of kilowatt hours on my roof.

Meanwhile, I had an interesting experience with my 17 year-old car last weekend. On Sunday, April 5, I was driving to Williamsburg, Virginia with the daughters for an overnight visit to see the historic town. While on the ramp getting onto I-295, suddenly my car stopped accelerating and I had to pull over I eventually managed to drive to the next town, miraculously called Mechanicsville, Virginia, and pulled into an Exxon gas station. The nice young man working there told me that he knew a good mechanic called Cas that loves working on Hondas and tried to call him for me. Alas, it was Easter Sunday, and it seems that Cas and every other mechanic in Mechanicsville was off duty. I tried to reach Cas (and other mechanics) for over an hour. While we waited at the service station, another gentleman gave us some good advice and helped us. He bought some product for my fuel tank (and refused to take my money) and put it in my tank and told me to keep driving to Williamsburg since it was only 30 minutes away. Miraculously we made it to Williamsburg and were able to do all our planned activities. However, the car was not running anymore and I ended up leaving it at a Honda dealership in Williiamsbur and renting a car to get back to DC. Turns out the car needs a new transmission and the Honda dealer does not repair old models. I had the car towed to a transmission shop and they told me it would cost $3,500 to fix it! Meanwhile, Cas from Mechanicsville called me and told me that he wanted to help and that my car is surely worth fixing as it only has 86,000 miles. He offered to fix it for $1,500 and to have it towed from Williamsburg to Mechanicsville, which I agreed to do.

I’m still in DC and have no further word on my car. I will have to take the train to Williamsburg to retrieve it when it’s fixed. But it has been a good excuse to walk more and use public transportation and reduce my carbon footprint. On Wednesdays I take my daughter to karate class at the Stoddert School in Glover Park and usually drive. This time, I searched online and found that the D2 bus from Dupont Circle goes right nearby. I had to allow an extra 40 minutes to take the bus but it was such a great experience to walk down to Dupont with my daughter. The bus took us right in front of the school! On the way back, as soon as we got out of class we caught the bus again to bring us home. What fun to interact with the commuters and kids going home from school. On Thursday, I walked to Target and the swimming pool instead of driving and got some great exercise and saved money on gas and parking. Because I didn’t want to carry a lot of stuff, I ended up not buying a number of things that I was better off without.

Today I had to go to American University’s Law School in Spring Valley to do a workshop on using art to activate change. Still without a car, I just googled the address and found that the N6 bus from Mass Ave and S Street will get me there. I had a lovely stroll to the bus-stop, stood for 6 minutes under a blooming cherry tree, and then got service right to the entrance of AU. Again, I had to allow extra time but in the end it was very pleasant to walk and enjoy the outdoors.

We are off to Miami for a week so I can certainly live without my car. I’m hoping to take Amtrak to Williamsburg to get my car when its fixed. This is much cheaper, greener, and more relaxing than a one-way car rental (which costs $170 vs. $44 for the train).



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