Speech for the Solarize Bellevue ribbon-cutting event

March 29, 2015

Recently I spoke at the Solarize Bellevue ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the newly-installed solar array donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs Teen Center. It’s not often you get to share a stage with a mayor (Claudia Balducci of Bellevue), and not one but two mascots (“Blitz” from the Seattle Seahawks and someone called “Carbon Yeti”). So this was really a treat for me, and below is the speech I gave.

Four Reasons I’m Glad I Went Solar with the Solarize Bellevue Campaign

1) I feel a greater bond with my neighborhood and my city knowing that we did this together.

Some have asked me why, after years of thinking about getting solar panels, I finally dove in with a neighborhood Solarize campaign like this one. I could have just worked directly with an installer; there are quite a few now in the Seattle area.

But I like how Solarize Bellevue showed me that there are hundreds of others out there interested enough to show up at workshops around the city. It also showed me how several non-profit organizations in Bellevue wanted to get in on the fun, competing to win the prize of a free solar installation. And by the way: Congratulations to the winners of that competition, the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue!

2) I got to know some great people.

The folks behind this program are smart, fun, hard-working people, and probably the best decision I made last year was to become a volunteer for Solarize Bellevue. Bret Turner at Northwest Electric and Solar really knows his stuff, and provided detailed answers to my questions as they came up. Ian Robinson ably assisted him during the campaign, and the three installers who came out to my house to do the real work of getting my panels up and running clearly loved their work.

Paul Andersson and Emma Johnson at the City of Bellevue provided invaluable management of the campaign, and of course Paula del Giudice of PPRC led the campaign with a steady hand and words of encouragement at all the right times.

3) Over the long term, I’ll be saving real money.

With tax breaks, incentives, low-interest loans, and leasing, solar panels have become a reasonable, affordable home-improvement option. My own system will pay for itself within 10-15 years, and many systems now available in the state see a return-on-investment even faster than that.

Just to take a quick example of the dollars and cents of going solar, let’s look at the impact of the federal renewable energy tax break. It’s a hefty 30 percent. When I signed my contract with Northwest Electric and Solar, they asked for two-thirds down and one-third on completion of the installation. At the time, I must admit I gulped a little bit as I wrote those two checks last fall. But now, just a few months later, I’ve gotten a tax refund that reflects the 30 percent renewable energy tax credit. In other words, Uncle Sam picked up nearly the whole amount of that second check I wrote.

Many people now think of solar as a wise investment opportunity, and when you have a program like Solarize Bellevue, which can reduce prices by taking advantage of bulk buying, it really does make sense financially.

4) I’m doing my small part to help the environment.

In thinking about solar, sometimes it helps just to take a step back and realize what a minor miracle this technology is. We can make electricity out of sunlight. Sunlight!

That means that now it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to blow up mountaintops just to get at some coal. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to risk life and limb to drill for oil in deep seas. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to have to protect ourselves against the nightmare of radiation from nuclear accidents or waste. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to burn carbon-emitting fossil fuels or frack the land beneath our feet. We can, at least in part, make use of that quiet and undemanding gift called sunlight.

Thanks to Solarize Bellevue, I now generate half of my electricity right up on my roof. My hope is that through programs like Solarize Bellevue, and through the educational efforts of organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue, we’ll see more and more solar panels dotting the rooftops of our city!

One Response to “Speech for the Solarize Bellevue ribbon-cutting event”

  1. Kristen Bryant said

    Thanks James. Hopefully this inspires more people.

    I live in an apartment complex, and it has great solar potential. The city of Bellevue’s next step should be to find ways to incentivize these to go solar. Sometimes single family homes have our beautiful tree canopy that is the original and best solar cooling option. But apartments are usually tall enough to be out of the shade most of the day.

    I’d be interested to hear from you about how we can get Bellevue to take a next step to solarize multi-family dwellings and larger buildings.

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