Walking the “Solar Walk” to Free Renewable Energy

Solar professionals don’t just “talk the talk.” For the most part, we walk the walk, too. It became apparent during our recent #SolarChat Twitter discussion about jobs in the solar industry that, unlike the proverbial shoemaker’s children, solar pros are not going without solar.

In some cases, we get our first solar PV installation, begin to see our meter spin backwards, and get hooked on the experience. It becomes more than just solar power — it becomes a passion. That’s what happened to me, and the next thing I knew, I was leaving the construction industry to join its close cousin, the solar industry. 

In other instances, solar professionals join the industry because it’s a smart career move filled with opportunities, and are quickly sold on the personal benefits of using solar power in the home. How can you work on developing this technology, selling solar to other consumers, or even installing solar panels on other people’s roofs so they can begin to enjoy free, clean, renewable energy, and not decide it’s a great move for your own family, too? 

Then something even more interesting happens. Maybe it occurs when you first watch your meter spinning backward as you are feeding electricity you produce back into the grid. Or maybe it happens after you get your first electric bill as a solar customer — it’s 30 to 50 percent lower than what it was the previous month or, if you went all-out with your solar installation, maybe the only charge is a connection fee of about $5. However you slice it, it’s a steal of a deal! And it doesn’t end there. 

Now, you want to make sure you’re at “net-zero” (when you don’t owe the electric company anything and 100 percent of your home’s power comes from solar because you feed in enough power to the grid during the day to cover all your evening electricity usage) every month. So you start becoming more aware of your energy usage. You turn off lights when you leave the room. You use energy-hungry appliances like your dishwasher and clothes dryer during the day so that you’re harnessing free solar power. You might even (like me) begin checking the efficiency and output of your solar panels through your smartphone and iPad at random times of the day. 

At first, you’re doing it for the money savings, but then you start to feel really good about your efforts. After all, you’re not just enjoying free electricity — you’re helping to save the planet by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. Once you make this shift in your mind, conservation becomes a way of life. You become vigilant about recycling. Maybe you look into a hybrid or even an electric car. (You can power that car off the sun’s rays, too.) You might start eating vegetarian or vegan. Maybe you plant a garden, or a few more trees in your yard or begin bicycling to work on nice days. Conservation becomes a way of life, but it’s a different experience than before. 

In the past, you might have tried to recycle and be eco-conscious, but you never actually saw or felt the results of your efforts, so it was challenging to keep it up. It’s not like we can see or feel the results when we begin reducing our own carbon emissions and living a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s a gradual change, and it takes baby steps.

But solar is one thing you can do for the environment that shows an immediate return on your investment. And once you see this proof — right on your own rooftop and in your own electric bills — you realize your other steps toward an eco-conscious lifestyle are also making a big difference. That’s the solar lifestyle, and it’s one reason why I feel members of the solar industry have such an important job ahead of us — because we really can make a tangible difference in the future of our planet.

A #SolarChat discussion is held via Twitter.com on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 2-3:00 p.m. ET. Find out more by following @EcoOutfitters.

Image: Pavelk via Shutterstock

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Raina Russo is founder of #SolarChat, a think-tank utilizing the power of social media to discuss issues related to solar and renewable energy, connecting thousands of solar professionals in Twitter discussions generating an average of 4.5 million impressions per online event. #SolarChat also hosts in-person “TweetUps” and other networking events in conjunction with major solar industry conferences. The organization’s online social communities amplify the message of making solar a reality for every home and business across America.Russo is also the co-founder of #Women4Solar, compelled to drive change through addressing female related issues both inside and outside of the industry.Russo maintains an active social community for those interested in solar and renewable energy on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pintrist under EcoOutfitters, Women4Solar and SolarChat.Russo holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and served as a project engineer with Skanska USA, the number one green contractor in the U.S. She also served as a Liaison to the United Nations for the Israeli Defense Force.

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