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Good Idea: Teach Your Neighbors about Solar Power

Angel Eduardo profile image

Angel Eduardo

Poster for Renae Bowman's Solar Open House
Poster for Renae Bowman's Solar Open House

“I’m not the brightest bulb,” jokes Renae Bowman, an idealist and advocate for solar power in Crystal, Minnesota, USA. “But one of my skills is being able to take the most complex bits of information and narrow them down to make it easy to understand.”

Renae puts that skill to very good use during her Solar Open House events, which she and her husband host in their garage. The open houses are part of All Energy Solar’s campaign to spread the word about the benefits of solar power in a more person-to-person way. “They have a lot of great information out there,” Renae says, “but having worked so closely with individual residents, they really want the bottom line. What’s it going to cost me? What benefits am I going to see from this? What headaches am I going to see from this?”

Renae Bowman and her husband hosting solar open houses at their home in Crystal, Minnesota
Renae Bowman and her husband hosting solar open houses at their home in Crystal, Minnesota

Luckily for them, Renae is prepared with real numbers. “My system is producing $2,400 a year, and it’s only costing us about $1,200.” That leftover $1,200 goes right into Renae’s and her husband’s pockets. What’s more, they’re actually producing a surplus of energy. “We’re under a 10-year contract with the energy company,” she says. “We sell our excess to them during the daytime hours, and at night they sell us back energy at a reduced rate.” The most critical thing for Renae, however, is that she is going as green as she can. “For the rest of my life in this home, daytime hours, I’m living on clean, renewable energy. I am part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

E-gauge results from Renae Bowman's home, showing the amount of energy used, and the money and carbon saved.
E-gauge results from Renae Bowman's home, showing the amount of energy used, and the money and carbon saved.
E-gauge results from Renae Bowman's home, showing the amount of energy used, and the money and carbon saved.

The Solar Open Houses have been a success so far, despite potential setbacks. “It rained the whole day,” Renae says of her October 5th event. “But we had coffee and we had discussions. And the other thing we had was this e-gauge phone app, where we can watch in real time what our consumption is. It showed that during the rainstorm we were still generating more energy than we were using in the house. Even we were shocked.”

It’s hard to argue with all the facts Renae presents, and impossible for at least some of her enthusiasm to rub off. “They were very positive,” Renae says of the open houses, “because I think when people see it in the real world, taken away from the rhetoric and political negativity, it makes the possibility a reality for them.”

Angel Eduardo profile image

Angel Eduardo

Angel Eduardo has been published in The Ocean State Review, The Caribbean Writer, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, and Label Me Latino Journal. More of his work can be found on his official website www.angeleduardo.com.