After Going Solar, I Felt the Bliss of Sudden Abundance


However, when I talked to other people who had put solar on their roofs, most had the exact same epiphany I had: they realized they had a lot more juice than they expected. And it had the same emotional effect: going from feeling guilty and strange to feeling strange.

Consider the case of Christopher Coleman. A digital artist who teaches at the University of Denver, he uses massive amounts of energy, sometimes running a computer at full speed for a day and a half to render a single piece of digital art. “This really burn the GPU. My computer runs 24 hours a day,” he says. If he relied solely on greenhouse gas-producing sources, he would be nervous about these energy demands. But his home’s solar array is so productive that it covers his entire expense

“We are a lot looser and more comfortable,” he says.

I polled my Twitter followers, asking if having residential solar panels had changed anyone’s relationship with their energy use. Most said it had given them a similar thrill of abundance, and many joked about the air conditioner blasting without a second thought.

“We have these 90-degree days, now I come in and the house is cool and I smile and say ‘I don’t care,'” said Sandy Glatt, another Denver resident.

Many also told me that they are shifting their energy use to daytime hours, so they can use all those photons instead of handing them over to the grid (where, unfortunately, we are often misled by our utility companies public, who buy our electricity at a cheap rate and sell it back for more expensive use). So they’re charging Teslas and running all their appliances during the day, and installing electric water heaters to generate hot water for a whole day while the sun shines.

Solar installers often find that after a home gets panels, “their energy use goes up,” says Charlies Collier, solar installation project manager at Imperial Solar.

Given all the political barriers facing renewables, it may seem strange to talk about it emotional impact.

But emotion drives politics. That’s why some renewables advocates are now trying to promote, as loudly as possible, that a world powered entirely by renewables would be an overflowing cornucopia, with fast, sporty cars and comfortable homes.

“It’s the abundance agenda,” says Griffith. In electrifyargues that a massive build-out of solar, wind and storage mechanisms (including millions of electric cars, doubling as batteries) would make renewables reliable while being much cheaper than what we now pay for the electricity produced with fossil fuels.

He’s already seen a glimpse of it in his native Australia, where 30 percent of homes have solar power, and the arrays cost barely a quarter of what I paid for mine. Things could be so cheap here in the US, Griffith points out, if cities cut red tape — zoning laws and building codes, mostly — and states reformed their rules about liability and grid connection. The price barriers in the US aren’t labor or materials: “It’s all about regulations,” he says. “It could change quickly if people wanted it to.”

We should. Because take it from me: it is fun.



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