As the early March temperature rose to 80 degrees and a few miles away at the White House Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama were announcing a historic climate agreement, Robyn Miller-Tarnoff was welcoming rooftop solar panel installers to her Bethesda home.
“With 2015 the hottest year in history, I feel like there’s some heightened awareness of the threat of global climate change,” she says. “The price of solar is now affordable, and I feel like the time is right.”
Miller-Tarnoff is a member of Temple Sinai in Washington. Hers is one of 50 households that have signed contracts to go solar as part of the synagogue’s solar co-op. Columbia-based Direct Energy Solar was selected as the solar provider through a competitive bidding process.
The synagogue’s “green team” joined with the Community Power Network’s DC Solar United Neighborhoods (DC SUN) and Maryland Solar United Neighborhoods (MD SUN) to help organize the group solar installations.
Solar co-ops are a more affordable option for going solar because there is a discount through their bulk purchasing power — an average of 20 percent savings compared to the cost of individual installations, according to DC SUN.
Miller-Tarnoff estimates that it will take around seven years to recoup her investment in a 12-kilowatt system on the roof. According to Direct Energy Solar, the solar panels will shrink the family’s electricity bill to under $20 a month because they will produce enough energy to cover the electricity needs of the house.
Maryland is a net energy metering state, meaning that solar electricity generated by a home is fed into the grid and the amount of solar electricity generated beyond what the household needs is credited to the homeowner.
In December, the 30 percent federal solar investment tax credit for installations was extended to 2019. Maryland offers a $1,000 grant for solar systems up to 20 kilowatts in size.
For Miller-Tarnoff, there is a moral case to be made for installing solar beyond the financial incentives.
“Making steps towards renewable energy fits into our ethic, the idea that we’re restoring the world,” says Miller-Tarnoff. “Right now, with global climate change happening, our climate is broken.”