The biggest benefits of solar power are almost certainly not what you think.

Climate change. The electric grid. Renewable energy. There is a pervasive fiction that these are all topics for another time, that these issues can be addressed when some new unforeseen technology presents itself. It is a fiction I encounter all too often as an environmental science educator, and a desire to contradict these myths was one of the main reasons that my wife and I decided to add solar power to our home. We wanted to demonstrate that it is completely feasible to power one’s home and cars using 100 percent solar energy. Not next year. Not a decade from now. Today, in 2021.

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It’s not uncommon for friends, family, and neighbors to ask us about our home’s solar power. And I love most of the questions. It’s a chance to talk about a subject I enjoy, while encouraging people to think about adding solar to their own homes. Most questions are pretty straightforward: How much energy does it produce? Does it produce enough electricity to power your cars? What happens when it is cloudy? (There is one question that really irks me, but I’ll get to that shortly.)

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It’s been fun telling people that we produce more than 100 percent of the electricity we need to power our entire house and both our cars. I know that some may wonder whether we are being extremely miserly about our own electricity usage or whether there is some secret to our specific home. But there’s no secret and nothing unusual going on. We have a solar roof (the tiles themselves produce the electricity, as opposed to panels added to the roof), but other than that, everything is quite normal. We use our appliances, run the air conditioner, and drive to the park to play with our daughter.

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The fact that it is possible to power an entire house and two cars with today’s technology seems to intrigue most people. It also inevitably leads to another question. The question that drives me a little bit crazy:

When will the roof pay for itself?

I can…

Ryan Cornell

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