An environmental film producer for many years, now turned business development advisor – consultant to renewable energy and resource efficiency companies, Boston-area resident Eric Grunebaum had long been keeping his ear tuned to the residential solar industry. A few years ago he recognized what an excellent investment solar was and decided to get a solar electric system for his own home.
1) What motivated you to initially consider a solar electric or PV system for your home?
Having produced a Sundance documentary film about coal and wind energy and as a life-long environmentalist, I had been following the progress of the solar industry for many years, and more closely for about five years when, beginning around 2010-11, it seemed like the cost and efficiencies had improved to the point where it felt like the time to get some quotes from companies and check out the economics.
2) What allowed you to move forward on deciding to invest in a PV system?
The costs had declined sufficiently, the technology had matured and the state and federal incentives were in place – all of this converged so that payback was, and remains typically under five to seven years. It just makes sense as an investment – not to mention the great environmental benefits.
3) How long have you had your system, and are you glad you made the decision?
Our system was turned on in March 2012 and we’re very glad to have made the investment which has been paid back in about four years. For the next 20 to 25 years it will all be profit.
4) How has your PV system benefitted you?
As noted above, we’ve just about paid off the system and so starting in summer of 2016 we will be profiting financially. We’re also glad to be reducing our contribution to harmful emissions from fossil fuel burning plants including fine particulate pollution which causes illnesses like asthma, cardiopulmonary disease and kills people prematurely as well as causing the acceleration of dangerous climate disruption.
5) Has your PV system worked like you expected it to?
The system has worked perfectly and the worst that has happened has been the occasional need to re-boot the modem. This has happened a couple of times over four years. (Note: The modem is needed only for monitoring; it has no bearing on the performance of the solar system.) Also, the panels don’t work when covered by snow, but over the course of the four years we’ve still been able to generate about as much power as we use, so the sunny months more than made up for the cloudier winter months.
6) Are you happy with IPS’s performance in working with you and delivering as you expected?
Absolutely, IPS has been great and I have recommended them to quite a few friends and acquaintances.
7) What would you like to say to someone considering going solar? What words of wisdom might you offer?
Think of it more like a financial investment which has environmental benefits, rather than a home upgrade. Like energy efficiency work, it’s one of the few home improvements that you can actually make money on – so it’s more like a mutual fund than a bathroom or kitchen renovation. Also there’s good research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy showing that solar adds value to your home – on average about $15,000. Last of all, if the old fossilized power suppliers rub you the wrong way, having your own solar system is a great way to take a little of their monopoly power away!
- size of array: 3.2 kW
- number and type of modules (PANELS):10 SPR 320s
- number and type of inverters: 1 SunPower SPR 3300f-240
- Az/Tilt: 175 / 30
- est. annual production: 3,980 kWh
About Eric Grunebaum:
Eric was a mixed-income housing developer and film producer until his 2011 documentary about coal and wind, “The Last Mountain”, premiered at Sundance. He then pivoted into clean energy work. Recently he registered as a broker-dealer and may be co-founding a crowdfunding platform for clean energy “impact” investment.