The idea of harvesting energy from the sun has always been a concept that has fascinated us. When we lived in Illinois, we looked into it but between the limited number of days that got sunshine, the limited output of solar panels at the time, the limited funds in our budget and the limited size of our roof, the idea remained just that – limited to being an intellectual exercise. As much as we wanted to go solar, it just didn’t make sense.
When Chuck and I moved to California years ago, we thought our first home improvement project would be the addition of solar panels to the roof. While the size of our budget and the size of our new roof hadn’t changed much, we were now in a place that had loads of sunshine and the output of the panels had improved several times over. Once we did the research though, we found that our electrical needs were so much less than they had been in the Midwest without the need to constantly run heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. We were bummed to conclude that the time it would take to get payback on a solar system still didn’t make sense.
Fast forward to earlier this year when we added a little ‘excitement‘ into our studio in the form of our very own electric kiln. We brought it home and took it for a few test drives. While it didn’t use as much power as we feared (about $8 per firing), what we found was that by simply having access to it, we wanted to use it more and more regularly. After one month of running it every weekend, we received a letter from the electric company alerting us to the fact that our electric usage (which used to be well below the average in the neighborhood) had spiked above the norm. Hmm. Time to revisit our research?!
Factoring in the federal tax credits currently available, a city-wide volume buying discount and a few other incentives, we had found our justification to become our own power providers. With a less-than-six-year payback period if we did nothing else, finally the solar array made sense!
We turned everything on for the first time a few days ago. On days one, two and four, we put more power back into the grid than we consumed. On day three, it rained (hallelujah!!) so we used more than we made. (I know it will wear off but, for now, I find it fascinating to analyze.)
This weekend we’ll fire up the kiln and then watch to see if the electric meter turns forward or backward while it is running. I’m betting the kiln will use more than the panels are able to concurrently produce but, over the long haul, we should offset the carbon footprint of our little hobby. CatTail Studio Arts has gone solar, baby! Now it’s always sunny in the studio. 😉