Ready to Install

Solar Panels ArriveToday is the day!  Our solar panel installation begins. It somehow seems fitting that it begins on a new moon day. A few days ago, the solar panels were delivered to our back yard.


Then Central Maine Power came to install a second meter–one records what we use and the other records what we send to the grid.

Yesterday afternoon, the scaffolding was set up so they are ready to go this morning.

The installation generally takes about three days, including putting framing and panels on the roof and the electrical work inside. It is hard to believe it is finally happening after all these months! I promise to post more pictures as the work progresses.Solar Panels ready to go

One Man Can Do So Much Harm

Yesterday, the governor of Maine vetoed the compromise solar energy bill that the legislature worked so hard to pass.  I feel so angry.  This one man is destroying thousands of potential new solar installations, all the jobs that go with it, and ultimately, adding to thousands of tons of carbon emissions because of his attack on renewable energy. I read today that even the utility companies supported this compromise bill. It certainly wasn’t a great bill.  A great bill would have added incentives and support for increasing our shift to renewable energy.  But it did provide a modest way forward.

But one man can veto it all.  It makes my blood boil.

Tomorrow there is a rally at the state house, and I know that many people are writing to their legislators to attempt to gain nine more votes from Republicans who previously have voted against the bill.  My state rep and state senator were both in favor, and I wrote to thank them. And I am writing this post, because sometimes we just have to rail against the powers of destruction and hope that the fire in our voices will turn the wind.

Signing the contract for our own solar panels has made this political side of the struggle very personal to me.  I was just realizing today that it has been almost nine months since we began this journey, our search for greener housing. The length of a human pregnancy: and it has felt like being pregnant.  The sheer magnitude of doing it all required a focus and energy that limited the other work I could do for the transformation of our society toward earth community. But now we are here, and the solar panels are about to be installed, and the baby is almost born, and I feel like a mama bear about it. I know that solar panels are not the be-all and end-all of the work we must do.  But they have become a sign and symbol of it for me.

I have to remember the vows I took when I gathered with other earth lovers at the Work that Reconnects with Joanna Macy last summer.  They give me strength on days like today.

  • I vow to myself and to each of you:
  • To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.
  • To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products, and energy I consume.
  • To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future beings, and my siblings of all species.
  • To support others in their work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.
  • To pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart, and supports me in observing these vows.

I have to remember that we will not complete the work, but neither can we abandon it.  This is the next part of this spiritual journey. Whatever the outcome, to be fierce like a mama bear about this earth we love.  To be connected to the real Mama Bear, the Earth herself.  We are part of a larger Life, larger than one destructive man, larger than the destructive forces that threaten everything we hold dear.  I have to remember to lift up my voice and my arms in life and hope with all the green living things who are waking up in this season of new life.

Lifting branches


Solar Energy

Solar Energy LeavesToday, as I walked in the woods, I was suddenly seeing all the leaves budding open as if they were little solar energy panels for the plants and trees–only much more beautiful and efficient than the solar energy panels we humans are able to make.  We are in those weeks when the plants are waking up and starting their solar production once more.  And our own celebration is to make a decision about solar energy, so that panels can be put on our roof as soon as possible.

Last week, we had a roofing company come to replace all the worn shingles, so the roof would be ready.  Then we read solar proposals and asked questions, and tried to decide between some great local companies who are installing solar panels in our area.  That was the toughest part of the decision.  We also took into consideration the total life cycle environmental impact of the panels themselves, and that helped us to choose SolarWorld panels which are made in the United States, and score high on all measures of environmental accountability and worker treatment.  Who knew there were so many factors to consider?

Meanwhile, my time has been very busy with church work, and I am sorry to have neglected this blogging.  Yesterday, I preached on a topic related to Faith Climate Action Week, and found this quote by Gus Speth, a U.S. advisor on climate change:

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

It is good to be serving a congregation that is interested in such a cultural and spiritual transformation!  They support the changes Margy and I are making, and many other families are also asking how they can lower their carbon footprint.  We give each other hope and strength.

Endings/Next Chapter

Tomorrow we are closing on the sale of our house in North Yarmouth!  Margy is there cleaning up tonight, and I took a last carload of stuff home tonight after work.  Lots of feelings: relief, weariness, glad to have us finally all in one place, sad to leave the trees, glad to have seen the daffodils bloom.

Meanwhile, I’ve been plotting the next chapter in Portland.  I’ve arranged for replacement of our roof shingles, which were nearing the end of their useful life.  That should happen next week.  And, I’ve been researching solar options with a couple of installation companies.  It has been more confusing that I thought it would be.  Lots of options, and the companies didn’t make exactly parallel proposals, so it has been hard to compare.

Meanwhile, state legislators this very day were debating the future of solar energy in Maine.  Our governor has been an opponent, claiming–I believe falsely–that ratepayers are subsidizing those who are using solar.  Right now we have net-metering, where consumers who have solar panels can send extra power generated by solar panels to the grid (for example on sunny summer days), and get a credit for watts that they can use later when they need power in winter.  This benefits the grid because summer is the time of highest demand.  It is what we hope to do.  But the current plan is scheduled for some sort of change after this year, because we’ve reached 1% of energy generated.

It is so crazy, because we all need to keep expanding renewal energy as much as possible, if we are going to have a planet for our future generations.  I wrote emails to my new state representative and state senator, and they are supportive–but there needs to be more support to override a veto by the governor.  He is doing so much damage.  No one in the opposition talks about the subsidies that oil and gas industries still get.  I wonder who is planning for a future  going up to 50% solar?  And then, how do we imagine a fully renewable energy grid?   Meanwhile, despite the political uncertainty, despite the opposition, Margy and I are going forward with our own plans for solar, casting our vote for the future.Bridge to the Sun

A Beautiful Window

Window DSC00652 - Version 2Continuing our search for greener housing, today we saw a house that had a lot of features we liked. The rooms were full of light, even on a rainy day. The living room had this really great full length window that we fell in love with. The house could be made accessible by widening a couple doorways on the inside, and a ramp to the front porch which was only a step or two up. (Very unusual for the houses we have seen.) The house had character–it had two bedroom suites, each with their own bathroom and room for office/study space. There was a fireplace in the living room.  Wood floors and lovely windows throughout. A small but usable kitchen. A small guest bedroom. It had a front porch (visible through the cool window), and two back decks on different levels (which is both a positive for outdoor space and negative for access). Oh, and another half bath, with hook-up for washer and dryer on the first floor. Outside, it had a big side yard as well as a sweet back yard and small front yard. It had an apple tree. According to the listing it was .3 acres. A quiet street and close to a bus line.

On the negative side, it had only a one-car garage, but it looked like there would be room in the front of the side yard to build another garage. We weren’t sure about whether solar panels could be installed on the roof, but we would have to cut down an ash tree on the back property line for it to work. On the other hand, if we built the garage, it might be situated well for solar too. If we make an offer on this house, we’d put in a contingency that it would work for solar panels. We’d also need to buy a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, and a hot water heater. Along with the air-source heat pumps. I think we might use up our budget for all of this.

Other good news, we were approved for a home equity line of credit on our current house that will cover the initial costs of buying a house and renovations, so we don’t have to make an offer contingent on selling our current house. (Though we would put our house on the market once we have a house under contract.)

It is hard to make a decision. Margy and I talked it out tonight, and both of us are leaning toward making an offer, but now we are going to sleep on it. It is really nice to find a house that has character, that I feel like we could love. I feel a little overwhelmed by all of it right now. Mother Earth, please will you guide our hearts into clarity? Ash tree, are you willing to give yourself to this project of our search for greener housing?

I remember the words of the Tao:

Do you have the patience to wait 
till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving 
till the right action arises by itself?