In April 2023, Solar Washington talked to Richard Hartung, a long time member who currently serves on the Board of Solar Washington. Richard talks about how his participation in a community solar project led to his full immersion into solar.
Solar Washington: Richard, when, how and/or why did you become interested in solar?
Richard Hartung: While I have been interested in solar power since I first heard about it, I became actively engaged with solar power when there was an opportunity to participate in a community solar in 2014 project near our home in Seattle. Seattle City Light partnered with the Woodland Park Zoo and the Phinney Neighborhood Association to install what it said at the time was the state’s largest community solar project. We signed up to purchase part of the output and receive payments for a number of years. Wanting to expand our usage of solar power and to have even more of an impact on mitigating climate change, we decided to install solar panels at our home. We installed solar panels in 2018 and more recently added a battery.
SW: Why did you join Solar Washington and what do you expect from Solar Washington?
RH: I found out about Solar Washington when I was looking for information about installing solar panels on our house. The website has a lot of good information, and it is a very helpful resource.
4.8kW solar array with an estimated
production of 3632 kW/year
I used it quite extensively again when I was setting up a small group in our neighborhood in 2021 to discuss solar power with neighbors who were considering installing solar panels. Since I had used the Solar Washington website on multiple occasions and found it so useful, I decided to join. Solar Washington sent out a notice in late 2021 inviting members to apply to join the board, so submitted my name for consideration and was fortunate to be elected to the board in 2022.
SW: What is next for you regarding solar?
RH: From a Solar Washington perspective, I look forward to continuing to serve on the board for the next year and hopefully longer. I focus on getting information to our members and the broader community through our newsletters and the website, in my role on the Education and Communication Committee. I have also volunteered to make our home a site to visit if Solar Washington participates in the national Solar Tour program coordinated by the American Solar Energy Society.
On a personal basis, I am passionate about environmental sustainability and talk about it regularly to groups and in my writing as well as in chats with friends. I enjoy explaining how easy and beneficial it is to install solar power. I am looking for more opportunities to expand that outreach so that I can play a bigger part in the growth of solar power in our community.
SW: Can you share any lessons you learned during your solar experience?
RH: My biggest learning may sound very basic to installers and other experts in solar power. I had assumed after I installed solar power that we would have uninterrupted power in the event of an outage. When Seattle City Light notified us of a planned outage during the summer one year, I expected we would have power anyway. Then, our power went out just like anyone else. I followed up and learned that, very sensibly, the power shuts off when there is a planned or unplanned outage so that power does not feed back into the grid and harm the technicians who are working on fixing the power supply. Since learning that, we have changed our configuration so that we will have power during an outage.
SW: Do you have any advice for anyone considering solar right now as a source of energy in Washington?
RH: Installing solar power is straightforward, we expect to break even on our investment after about a dozen years and panels last about 25 years. Maintenance is easy. Loans may be available. Installing solar panels can provide great financial and environmental benefits.
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