Scott – Arlington, VA

By Solar United Neighbors on May 2, 2024

Doing ‘by example’ is the best way to spur on change.

Scott – Arlington, VA

Why did you decide to go solar?

I bought my one-story Sears kit bungalo in North Arlington, VA in 1984 and experienced many power outages due to the large tree canopy in the area causing my basement to repeatedly flood. So I started with a 1.5 kW PV battery system to run two basement sump pumps and some lights in my kitchen and bedroom and in 1985 added a solar water heating system. When I added the 2nd story in 1990, I kept the solar water heating system, and I added photovoltaics and a large (16 300 amp hour) batteries bank and now run my entire house, day & night. By 1995, I built a small two-story office building with solar PV roofing shingles a small wind turbine and a battery bank system, and by 2000 added a hydrogen PEM fuel cell & solar daylighting system to meet 100% of its electricity load. During 2013 I add a direct-exchange geothermal heating and cooling system to my house to significantly reduce the electric load further and changed-out all bulbs in both buildings to LEDs. In 2023, I added higher output PV to part of my house to increase output to power my 2022 Nissan Leaf SL 100%. I have given weekly tours of both buildings nonstop since 1997.

What was the process like for you? Did anything surprise you, or were there challenges you had to overcome?

Dealing with zoning and County code officials on battery banks, wind turbine, and geothermal heat pump was difficult, but I had a group of long-time solar installers work with me and the county every step of the way. Having Solar United Neighbors’s extended family sure helps in these instances today, Also Solar Today magazine by ASES, and PV News and other publications also help educate building owners, local governments, and the community on technology, codes & zoning, financing, and problems. While it has not been easy, especially since I started this journey so long ago, it is gratifying to be a leader in using a broad array of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage technologies and systems.

Have any of your habits changed since going solar?

Yes, I bought Energy Star appliances, washing machine refrigerator, ductless heat pumps. and finally an electric car which I solely power. My solar water heating system has never had a problem (except for one snarky squirrel chewing on the electric wire of my solar glycol circulation pump, which needed replacing). The best experience is holding these weekly tours for architects and engineers, homebuilders professor & students, the media, international visitors to the Washington, DC area, and my neighbors (regionally). My message, “start small” and build-up when you can.

Have you seen electricity savings since going solar? If so, what have you been able to do with that savings?

I decided I wanted to go go close to 100% from day #1. But I didn’t have the money or knowledge. By the way, solar and batteries costed many times more than today. So it was a formidable step, and the journey was long. But I never have power outages, which are still plentiful in the area where I live. Aside from mandatory hook-up fee from transmission and distribution, my bills are negligible. I utilized my renovation loans for my house and later to build my office building, so the monthly added costs of the loans were less than what I would pay monthly for my utility bills (electricity and natural gas). So, slow and steady was my approach.

Have you been involved in any solar advocacy since becoming a solar owner?

Well, yes, quite a lot. I worked in the US Senate on military and energy issues in the 1970’s. so I was very aware of environment (passage of both the Clean Air Act & Clean Water Act) and the OPEC oil embargo. I worked in the environmental and sustainable development field, and ultimately ended up running the national solar trade association (1985-2000) when I bought my house in 1984. Through my entire professional life I was heavily involved in advocacy. The real challenge was when I bought my house, I had to make a conscious decision, “was I going to be just an advocate or be a ‘doer'”. By adopting clean energy solutions in a meaningful and cost-effective way, had more impact on my advocacy. I have a global renewable energy owner’s-rep firm, and I have taught for the last 13 years three different interdisciplinary classes on sustainable energy at The George Washington University (GWU). It is quite an honor to teach, advocate, provide market guidance on the very many cost-effective options that make sense today.

What advice would you give to someone considering going solar?

First, start small — solar water heating or solar daylighting — or even a small solar battery system for camping or the beach. Second, every time you renovate your apartment, condo, home, or business — add some kind of sustainable energy feature. Small is beautiful, doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Third, whatever you do, invite friends, neighbors, work associates, house of worship, local organizations to come by and see what you’ve done. Doing ‘by example’ is the best way to spur on change.