July 15, 2013
Solar power isn't a new concept, but it is becoming more affordable.
Each year, more people are installing solar panels to their homes and saving a lot of money on their electric bills.
"Over the last five years, we have installed twice as many systems each year as we did the year before," said Paul Risberg, president of Altenergy Incorporated. "So, popularity is gaining and that's mostly due to decreases in the costs of the equipment."
The Keith-Hynes family is one of the new households that lives in an energy-efficient, solar-powered home.
"We wanted to have it to be as sustainable as possible," said Meghan Keith-Hynes. "I feel like any new construction should take on as much of its own power production as possible."
Their solar panels are designed to cover 60 percent of their projected electric needs. For the past two months, the electricity generated by the panels has covered all of their electrical demand.
The family of four opened its last electric bill, and it came to a total of $7.70. That amount covers a Dominon Power utility fee and city taxes.
"We've really proven it's actually quite simple and straight-forward and not prohibitively expensive," said Keith-Hynes.
The entire solar panel system cost the family $15,000. After a $5,000 tax rebate, they expect it to pay for itself in five to seven years.
For an example of how much power is generated by the panels, as of 12:30 p.m. on Monday, enough electricity was generated to power seven 100-Watt light bulbs for 24 hours.
For the Keith-Hynes family, using solar power has been an easy and fun transition. They said that anyone can make the switch.
"You don't have to have technical know-how to enjoy having this as a part of your house," said Keith-Hynes.
It's just one step toward becoming a more energy-efficient culture.
"It's not a solution to our energy needs. Of course, everybody needs electricity at night. It's just one piece in a puzzle," said Risberg.
A Dominion Power spokesperson said the company has over 850 customers in Virginia like the Keith-Hynes family, who are enrolled in Dominion's Net Metering Program. Seventy-four of those households are located in the Charlottesville area.