Saving With Solar Power

How one family took a leap of faith into the world of solar power — and wound up being their own utility in the process.

| February/March 2001

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  • Solar Panels
    Adding solar panels can drastically reduce utility bills.
    Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
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  • Solar Panels
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Solar power, utilities and the beauty of a backwards spinning meter.

So with the country dangling on a thin wire between formidable possibilities, my wife and I decided to proceed with the next logical step: Build an addition onto the house.

We live roughly 7,500 feet above sea level in the Rocky Mountains, which means that our proximity to the sun's powerful rays, as well as our electric bills, are sky-high. I had always been interested in solar power, and since we would be constructing a new roof anyway here was an opportunity to install solar panels on our house.

Most small towns do not usually have a listing for "solar energy," so the first (and only) place we began looking was the Internet. Typing in the ambiguous to term "solar panel" brought 88,126 possible hits.

"Solar panel installation" narrowed it down to a mere 3,489, while "solar panel installation Colorado" tapered the listing to a workable 212. What a pleasant surprise it was to find listed on the very first page, no less — the Solar Energy Institute (SEI) of Carbondale, Colorado, a mere hop, skip and a jump over one mountain pass from our home in the Vail Valley.

The word "Institute" alarmed me a bit. I was convinced I would be talking to a group of scientists and listening to hours of brain draining solarbabble. But what (or who) I found instead was Ed.

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