Karen Smagala – Arlington, Virginia

I started at ground zero knowledge about the products available and how they worked, and gained a lot of knowledge through co-op.

Karen Smagala, Solar Homeowner – Arlington, Virginia
Went solar with the Potomac Solar Co-op in 2016
System size: 5.7 kW, 20 solar panels

Why did you decide to go solar?

Solar power has always interested me; I saw it being the wave of the very near future. As I noticed more solar being installed in my community I wanted to explore the possibility for my own home. Rising energy costs have also been my concern since I am retired on a fixed income.

Why did you decide to go solar with the co-op?

Acquaintances told me about co-ops which installed relatively low-cost or free products in their communities.  That intrigued me so I started researching co-ops and found one through Arlington County Government.  I was advised that a new co-op would open in Arlington in the spring of 2016.  Other than cost reductions offered to members of a co-op, the benefits of sharing information with experts or co-op members who are not trying to sell you the product itself are enormous. I started at ground zero knowledge about the products available and how they worked, and gained a lot of knowledge through co-op meetings.  Thus, I ended up with the confidence to move toward a decision to actually go solar.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to go solar?

A no brainer—join a co-op, network, ask friends who have already gone solar about their experiences.  Go to a job site to see how it’s done. Explore!

Has anything surprised you about going solar?

I just got my new electric meter yesterday. The installer explained how to read whether I was using more or less power than generated by my panels.  In the first few minutes after turning on the system I was generating more than I was using! Of course, it was daytime.

Do you have any data on your system’s performance?

Today, the second day of “going live” the new meter shows that even on a cloudy day I am still generating more power than I’m using.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m glad I installed solar.  It’s exciting to me to be able to use renewable energy. It’s too bad that Virginia does not offer a higher SREC rate for its users.  That might encourage more people to go solar!

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