Image credit: Tommi Grover
When I posted a video on solar car charging in rainy England, johnnydarkangel (who says anonymity has to go away on the web!?) commented that solar changes the way you consume energy. You do all your washing during the day, minimize consumption at night, etc. There's a logic to this, but I wondered just how much people are willing or able to adapt their routines.
The photo above is of the newly installed solar panels on my brothers' house. And if his emails are anything to go by, solar can be a powerful tool—not just for generating electricity—but for transforming the way we consume it too.I've already noted how my Dad has started keeping careful track of his energy consumption since they installed solar, announcing with pride that they generated about 2/3rds of the energy they consumed between mid-March and mid-June. And now my brother has chimed in with his experiences, and given a little more detail about how his actual behavior has changed as a result:
It's been said many times before, but from personal experience I can confirm that generating my own electricity has made me very conscious about how much electricity I use. I love my dishwasher, it's great. But when it's consuming electricity at 2 KwH and I'm generating at peak times only 1? Suddenly hand washing my dishes doesn't seem quite such the hassle.
I charge my laptop during the day when I'm out, and when I get home in the evenings, I might work a little or use my laptop to watch a film or streaming TV on the BBC iplayer. But if my laptop runs out of charge, then it makes me think seriously before I plug it back in. Unless I'm in the middle of a good film, I often decide to stop working or watching TV and go and read a book, or go to sleep earlier.
What's most interesting about all this is that my brother is hardly a committed environmentalist—although he's no climate skeptic either. He installed solar panels because it made sense. And he joined a car club for very similar reasons. As he himself pointed out, if solar can transform his behavior, it would be interesting to note what it does for those who are really committed to the cause. A quick Google search does not bring up any hard evidence on solar and behavior change—but if anyone knows of any research, I would love to see it.
Of course there are other, cheaper ways to get folks to pay closer attention to their consumption. From high-tech energy monitors to community-based efforts to cut energy use, the simple act of monitoring and recording what you use can be powerful in itself.
But there is more at play here with solar—just as you are likely to value a cucumber you grew yourself a little more dearly, the act of generating electricity at home creates a sense of ownership. And ownership encourages stewardship.
More on Solar in the UK
UK Solar Prices Tumble, Installations Rise
Old Mine Becomes 1.4MW Solar Power Plant
Going Solar Revisited: Lessons from my Parents
Feed-in Tariffs Prompt Rush or Interest in Solar
Are Feed-in Tariffs a Rip Off?