Solar Washington: Chandra, why and how did you become a supporter of solar power?
Chandra Romel: I became interested in solar energy when I moved to Indiana many years ago and learned that the majority of the state’s electricity was produced by coal-fired power plants. I felt compelled to take action. While “going solar” was something I read about, I did not realize how feasible it was for me as a home owner until I spotted an array of roof-top photovoltaic (PV) panels on a neighbor’s house. She shared her experience and led me to a local nonprofit educational group advocating for solar energy as an effective way to offset carbon emissions as a source of clean energy, in an effort to mitigate human-caused climate change and to preserve the natural environment. Solar power has benefits beyond clean energy; it gives home owners energy independence, allows power companies to diversify their portfolio, and creates jobs. Solar PV systems are easy to maintain and will operate for decades.
SW: What kind of preparation led you to install solar on your home?
Chandra: I’m an engineer so I like to do my research. First I attended several “Going Solar 101” community presentations hosted by the local solar education nonprofit to understand how solar PV works, how to size a system, general costs, key information in a solar installation quote, and how the system is maintained and covered by warranty after installation. This better equipped me to speak with solar installers and led to the installation of a 4 kW PV system on my first home. After moving to Washington state I was excited to once again install solar panels immediately after purchasing my house in Tricities.
I financed both systems with either a home equity line of credit or a low interest solar loan. The monthly loan payment became my energy bill and now over 90% of my house and electric vehicle are powered by my 7 kW rooftop power plant.
SW: Why did you join Solar Washington and what do you expect from Solar Washington?
Chandra: I joined Solar Washington to stay engaged in the solar sector, network with solar enthusiasts and experts, understand the impacts and challenges of solar energy in this region, and stay up to date on state regulations and solar incentives. I appreciate that Solar Washington continues to serve as a nonpartisan educational source for the solar industry. Their webinars reach a wide audience from across the state. The annual Solar Summit conference is an essential resource for all stakeholders and continues to be informative and relevant. A big shout out to the board of directors for volunteering their time and energy to this important cause.
SW: Do you have any advice for anyone considering solar right now in WA?
Chandra: Anyone considering going solar should check out the Solar WA website (solarwa.org) for guidance on the process. Talk to multiple contractors and collect at least three quotes. Move at a pace you are comfortable with and never feel pressured to sign a contract. Several credit unions in WA offer solar loans at competitive rates. Talk to other solar home owners including myself! I am happy to share my experiences.