“Let us be good stewards of the Earth we inherited. All of us have to share the Earth’s fragile ecosystems and precious resources, and each of us has a role to play in preserving them. If we are to go on living together on this earth, we must all be responsible for it.” – Kofi Annan
For our final Earth Week celebration blog, we chatted with Dutchess County resident Tara Sullivan, where she and her husband Ned recently installed solar at their four-bedroom, three-bathroom home. The Sullivans are a great example of New Yorkers doing their part to make a positive impact on our environment in their everyday lives.
The Sullivans are aiming to be good stewards and lead by example to reduce their energy consumption.
“First and foremost, my husband (Ned Sullivan) is an environmentalist and the president of Scenic Hudson,” Tara Sullivan said. “We both have been environmentalists all our lives, and we felt we really needed to hone in on our energy use and sustainability.”
While this factored heavily into their decision to install solar panels on their home in January 2015, the rising costs of electricity in the Hudson Valley, as well as forward thinking on their retirement plan, also played a part.
“If we can get to a point by the time we retire where we have basically closed out many of our expenses, then our retirement overhead comes way down,” Tara Sullivan said. “That’s why we’re on this long-term plan to basically get completely off the grid, to be completely energy sustainable by the time we retire.”
New York State is helping drive its solar industry to become a self-sustaining market under NY-Sun. The Sullivans were able to finance the installation through their installer Hudson Solar. Under the NY-Sun Initiative, the Megawatt Block Incentive Structure allocates Megawatt (MW) Blocks to specific regions of the State and awards incentives based on the block in effect at the time. As more homes and large and small commercial buildings install solar, the incentives decrease.
“Right now the subsidies are so good that it really pays to do it now,” Tara Sullivan said.
The Sullivans installed a 7.84 kilowatt system that, Tara Sullivan said, currently meets about 90 percent of them family’s electrical needs. She anticipates it reaching 100 percent once her two children move out.
The Dutchess County homeowners have really taken energy efficiency to the next level, having mapped out a plan to cut consumption. Tara Sullivan said they started with insulating the attic and basement, then replaced the hot water heater with a heat pump, and most recently installed solar.
“Our final step will be to replace our HVAC system with geothermal,” she said.
She added that the best way for others to start on the path to energy conservation and efficiency is do a home energy assessment to determine where they can save on actual consumption, and then determine what is most affordable for them. NYSERDA offers guidance to homeowners on these matters through programs like Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, with the first step being a home energy assessment.
Tara Sullivan admits they’re already rousing others to consider their energy consumption habits simply with the solar panels in the backyard.
“We inspire people; we have been inspired,” she said. “It’s just being passed around because people get it’s going to take all of us to make an impact on our global climate change. There’s no denying anymore.”