Solar Champion Stories

Fifteen Years of Solar in Scarborough, Maine

The McDonough family’s path to a clean energy lifestyle began in 2003 with a family vacation in Ohio where Deb McDonough attended a lecture given by an Oberlin professor on fossil fuels' negative impact on our planet, and the benefits of renewable energy like solar. Back home, they found that it wasn’t easy to figure out what options made sense – until they found ReVision Energy.

mcdonoughs 2010.JPGA 2010 photo of the McDonoughs in front of their solar hot water. In 2007 ReVision installed the McDonoughs' first system – a Solar Hot Water rooftop system – on their Scarborough home. Coupled with their house reinsulation project, it was estimated that they’d reduce their oil consumption by 400 gallons annually and pay off the system in 5 years; both of these estimates proved accurate. More Solar Hot Water was installed in 2010, followed by PV solar in 2012. In 2013 the McDonoughs installed an EV charger for their used Nissan Leaf.

"When we started,” Deb McDonough explained, “we made a rule for ourselves that each project would have to pay for itself in energy savings before the warranty ran out. It all has. And we’ve dropped the carbon load of our house by 93-94%."

As an early adopter of renewable energy, Deb McDonough has seen the benefits – financial, environmental, and personal – of solar energy. In the fifteen years since they first installed solar hot water, two of her children have grown up and moved out – and gone on to work with solar.

McDonough Solar Hot Water.JPG“Our daughter spent two years in solar investment work in New York City,” Deb said. “And our son worked in San Francisco for a company that worked on solar, battery, and grid integration software. Each has been drawn to the solar field.” As an 8-year-old, Deb’s daughter would help out with solar tours at their home, showing visitors the inverters and spreading solar education to their neighbors.

Spreading Solar to the Community

Deb has been involved with the Scarborough Sustainability committee, helping the Town with some of their solar installations, including the Community Services Building and the Firehouse. She also served as the liaison for the Scarborough Library solar project. In 2014 the McDonoughs were able to use a Home Equity Loan to fund a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for their church to go solar. ReVision installed a 6.6 kW system on the roof of St. Ansgar, in Portland; through the PPA, the church paid the McDonoughs for the reduced electric bills and after 6 years bought the solar outright.

St Ansgar church solar portland.pngA 6.6 kW rooftop PV array on St. Ansgar in Portland.The McDonoughs now drive a 2015 Nissan Leaf with 120,000 miles on it which Deb says “takes us where we need to go.” She drives her kids to Yarmouth and back for hockey practice, into Portland, and around Scarborough for daily errands. They are working on a heat pump design to supplement their pellet boiler, and plan to offset these additional energy needs with a community solar share.

“There’s an inertia hurdle for people,” Deb explained, when asked why some people might not embrace solar the way they have. “Everybody has electricity coming into their house and everyone has experience with gas pumps. Using solar and driving an EV feels like it might be different. That’s a big hurdle to get over. There are a lot of people who could be saving money by making some pretty straightforward shifts and they’re not doing it. We have two solar hot water systems, two PV systems, and are moving forward with community solar next, but you don’t have to do it all at once! If I could tell people anything about it, I’d want them to know it’s not that hard.”

Deb McDonoughs EV Nissan Leaf.JPGDeb McDonough plugs in their Nissan Leaf.Deb and her family are true, longterm ReVision Solar Champions. "We've gone back to ReVision again and again because they’ve been upfront with me,” says Deb.

"They’ve helped me with my ideas, and each of the projects have performed like they said they would, so I trust their expertise and modeling. It takes planning and organizing, but you don’t have to do it all at once! We have two solar hot water systems, two PV systems, and are moving forward with community solar next. There are options. If I could tell people anything about it, I’d want them to know it’s not that hard.”

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