Five years ago, Beth and Sandy decided to install a Solaflect Tracker on their property in Norwich. They were pioneers, the first people to take the plunge with Solaflect. While solar energy options had been around for decades, the Tracker did something revolutionary: it tilted and moved with the sun throughout the day, resulting in the capture of 40% more energy than the traditional fixed PV panels. “We had been considering solar for a long time,” Beth says, and they already had a solar hot water system on the property. “We’d been hemming and hawing and Bill stopped in. We signed up a week later. Bill has a lot of integrity and that meant a lot to us. There was a personal component to all of this.”
Within a couple of months of the installation, “our electric bill was virtually zero. We started putting electricity back into the grid quickly.” Beyond the financial benefits, the couple watched how much energy their Tracker was generating, how much CO2 they were keeping out of the atmosphere, or how many trees they were saving in real time. Seeing the interactions between the sun, the weather, and the home’s energy generation and usage on a moment-by-moment basis was a fun side-effect. The Tracker, Beth admits, “is high on the cool factor.”
When it came time to install the Tracker in a sun-drenched spot behind a cluster of coniferous trees, the couple was excited…almost as much as the Solaflect team. “We had everyone from Solaflect here: interns, staff, family, etc.,” recalls Beth. “Everybody was really trying to do their best. They were working out a few little bugs. We tried to facilitate the process as much as we could while staying out of the way,” says Sandy.
Soon, they realized they had a problem every homeowner would love to have: they were producing more power than they were using. They recognized that they were putting a lot of energy generated by the Tracker back into the grid. Opportunity was knocking, and they were ready. They installed a heat pump on the property, which they could run with solar energy. And they added a hybrid-electric car, secure in the knowledge that their Tracker would cover the cost of charging it throughout the year.
One of the benefits of being the first adopters of Tracker technology has been the chance to share their experience with friends and neighbors. “We followed-up with people after installation, and some of them have gone solar after hearing from us,” Sandy says.
The question they get the most from others is, “How many years will it take for the Tracker to pay for itself?” Beth laughs as she notes, “You never ask that question when you buy a furnace or any other appliance; it is unique to solar.” For their part, the couple chose to ask a different question. “As warm and fuzzy as solar is, it is also a financial layout,” Beth says. “We wanted to know what the return on our investment would be.” They did their homework, and their math showed an 8-10% return on investment, “better than the market. It is a safe investment that is adding value to your home.” She sums it up like this: if you are spending $100 less on power each month, that frees up $100 more for your mortgage payment. “People in Norwich get that,” Beth adds, “and realtors are catching up, though they don’t yet sell that as much as they could”.
Five years into their solar lives, Beth and Sandy shared one more detail that wasn’t part of the original plan. “Solaflect has become family.” “One of the technicians, Mike, would come out to check the Tracker or tweak a small detail. We’d invite him to stay for a beer… or dinner,” Beth says.