If one of their kids breaks a solar panel with a stray ball, Gail and Chris Farmer are responsible for replacing it. But if a falling tree branch breaks one, Solar City pays – as Solar City did for the entire solar installation two years ago at the couple’s Flourtown, Pennsylvania house. The company, now owned by Tesla, placed 5 panels on the south sloping front roof and another 8 on the southwest facing side roof. The company reaps the benefit of excess energy generated back into the grid during the 20 year contract and the family, which satisfies 65% of its electricity needs from the sun, realizes modest cost savings as it moves toward a more fossil fuel – free lifestyle.
The Farmers’ was one of three houses with solar panels on the same stretch of College Avenue in Flourtown, just outside Philadelphia, that were part of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association (“MAREA”) 2018 Sustainable Living Open House Tour on Saturday, May 5th.
Your correspondent also visited the freestanding installation at Joy Bergey’s house around the bend. Some 10 feet off the ground, 9 solar panels are mounted billboard-like atop a substantial tube pole. The panel began to slowly turn while I was there; motors automatically adjust the angle facing the sun and the map direction to maximize exposure according to weather conditions and time of day. “What have I done?” was Bergey’s first reaction the night the structure was first installed because it seemed so industrial. However, her neighbors have been supportive of the project and she has since softened the visual impact of the structure, which sits in her backyard next to a big open field, by surrounding it with garden plantings. Installed in 2016, Bergey sells excess power back to PECO, the regional electric power company, through net metering and expects to break even on the $20,000 investment over 8-9 years. And she believes her house becomes more appealing for resale as buyers increasingly seek out solar energy alternatives.