Matt spent a long and productive career advising people on insurance and financial investments, so when he was looking at bringing his lifelong interest in sustainability home, he knew a sure thing when he saw it. The Made in Minnesota (MiM) Solar Incentive Program meant that getting photovoltaic solar panels installed on his house was “a no-brainer.” he says. “It pays for itself in 7 or 8 years, and you’re seeing a return on investment right away.”
The work of making Matt’s house more efficient and environmentally friendly began 25 years ago, when he moved in. The house came with an old oil furnace, which he switched for a high-efficiency natural gas model. He installed insulation all over the house—once, when the siding was damaged by hail, he took the opportunity to add more insulation to the walls before he had the new siding put in. More recently, he had an energy audit conducted and began switching out his old incandescent lights for energy-saving models. “The incentives all help,” he says, and adds that he was able to cut his gas bills in half just by completing these energy-efficiency measures.
It wasn’t enough, though. He yearned to be able to create his own energy. “The more you produce of what you use, the less you have to buy somewhere else,” he says. It’s like gardening—why buy tomatoes at a supermarket that have been flown in from South America when you can grow your own right at home? Since Minnesota’s energy sources—coal, gas, oil—overwhelmingly come from out of state, solar is becoming a way to encourage local businesses. Not only that, but it has positive effects on the health of Duluth’s residents. Reducing air pollution decreases the incidence of respiratory ailments such as asthma. “Duluth is a lot cleaner now than it was 40 years ago,” Matt points out with satisfaction. “Let’s continue that trend.”
The up-front cost of solar installation daunts many homeowners, and legislators and utilities are still hammering out the details on how to adapt to new energy generation technology. Early adopters such as Matt, however, are breaking ground for other homeowners, and the process is getting less expensive—there’s been an 80% reduction in the price of solar panels over the last 6 years. “It pays for itself over time,” he says. “If you’re able to make use of tax credits to help get started, it’s a no-brainer. If not, consider if you can partner with someone else.”
Investing in the local economy, the comfort of your home, the planet’s future, and the air quality of Duluth? As Matt found out, that’s going to pay dividends.