For Fenwick Island Town Councilwoman Vicki Carmean and her husband, Wayne, getting solar panels has been something they have thought long and hard about, and in the end, as with many decisions, money was the deciding factor.
“My husband and I are on a fixed income,” explained the retired teacher. “There is not much we can control, and I don’t think we have seen the end of the rate changes.”
After the town enacted an incentive in keeping permit fees at $100 for renewable energy systems, the Carmeans – who were growing increasingly concerned about rising electric rates – made the decision to go ahead and research both solar panels and a new solar hot-water heater.
“I am very excited to see what the solar hot-water heater does,” said Carmean. “I’ve heard one third of your electric bill deals with the hot-water heater.”
They started the process in May and, after meeting with several companies, they finally decided on GroSolar – formerly Chesapeake Wind and Solar – to install both their rooftop panels and hot-water heater.
Unfortunately for them, about a week after they decided to go forward with the projects, the state of Delaware changed its incentive from a 50 percent rebate to a 25 percent rebate. But that didn’t stop them.
“We missed the boat on that one,” Carmean noted with a laugh. “But anyone who is interested should really take advantage, because it’s not going to last.”
Still, with the 25 percent rebate and a 30 percent federal tax incentive, Carmean said she and her husband expect to have the systems, totaling about $32,000 in cost, start paying for themselves within five years.
“It’s not a quick process. People have to walk through and think about their own finances to see what’s good. But it is a doable process,” she said of the available grants and rebates.
As a member of the town’s Environmental Committee, Carmean said she has learned a lot – not only about solar – but about wind energy, rain barrels and the area’s oyster gardening project, to name a few.
“I am not a tree-hugger or an environmental purist,” explained Carmean. “But I think people should take advantage of what’s out there. Here we are sitting in sunny Fenwick Island. And [the sun] should be good for something besides a suntan.”