Here Comes the Sun

Aahhhhh, sunshine …

I’m one of those people whose mood is affected by how much sun there is. Or isn’t, as the case may be. I first noticed it back when I was a teenager. Moving to a province that gets a lot of long grey spells, coupled with working night shift and sleeping all day, has only highlighted it. But when the sun is in the sky, well … I’m always happier when the sun is in the sky. I don’t have to be out in it. Just seeing it streaming in through the window is enough to cheer me up.

Also back when I was a teenager, I developed an interest in green technology. I’ve spent some time over the years dreaming about building an off-grid home and what technologies I’d include if budget weren’t a constraint – everything from geothermal to wind power to a water cistern.

Budget is a constraint, however, so I’ve had to scale down my dreams. But I’ve never given up on them. Since solar panels have always been my favourite green tech, I’ve focused on them. Beyond their efficiency, relative affordability, and the ease with which they can be installed on existing structures, I also love their sleek and shiny look, so they seemed the perfect first step.

Admittedly, that first step took me around 25 years to take.

Much as I wanted solar panels, and as comparatively affordable as they are to other green upgrades I could make to my home, the reality is they’re still a considerable cash outlay with a long-term return. I could never quite get myself to the point where solar panels were at the top of the possible home renovations list, and I had enough money to pay for them at the same time.

In fact, as with so many things in my life, if it wasn’t for Ron, it probably wouldn’t have happened still. A few years back, an email from him landed in my inbox with a link to a company called Skylit. (Shameless plug: If you’re in Nova Scotia and want solar panels, contact Skylit. Seriously.) They were brand new, in their first year of operation, and he sent me the link because of their unique financing program. It was so unique, in fact, it felt too good to be true. But after booking an appointment to get more details and doing a bit of due diligence, it became clear that it was entirely on-the-level.

And just like that, suddenly solar panels were within my grasp. Quite literally in my grasp, in fact, as a few months later, I was the one who flipped the breaker to officially connect my new solar panel system to the grid.

After the months of anticipation between decision and installation – of paperwork and emails and phone calls, of laughing at the ineptitude of Nova Scotia Power, of spending rather a lot of time hanging out on my roof – throwing that switch was one of the more satisfying things I’ve ever done. But it was also a little melancholy. I’d spent so long dreaming of reaching this goal, a part of me was sad to see the dream come to fruition. I’d put so much time and energy into it, and now, I thought, it was over.

I was wrong.

See, my solar panels also came with a monitoring system full of charts and graphs and stats with enough info to keep me entertained for ages. The sunny days I’ve always loved? Love them even more now that I can quantify them. It even makes the fact that I’m stuck sleeping through most of them a little easier to accept when I can look at the graph and tell exactly when a cloud crossed the sun, or when the last of the snow on the roof finally melted, or when a perfect arch proves it was all clear all day.

It also turns out that getting the panels was only the first of many goals. The monitoring system includes various offset measurements, like how much carbon would have been produced had the system energy not been made by green means. The one I enjoy most is the trees. I did a little celebratory dance when my panel production reached the equivalent of having planted 100 trees. I expect it’ll happen again once I reach 500 – something that’s not far off at all.

Admittedly, short of installing more panels – which would require way more roof than I have – there’s not much I can actively do to drive these goals. But logging into the system, which is updated in real time, and watching the numbers climb is better than any video game.

Speaking of which, I must dash. The total lifetime system production is at 12.99MWh …

… and I don’t want to miss it ticking over to 13.

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