Retired Couple Goes Solar to Retire Big Utility Bills

Richard & Jackie Holmes' Solar Success Story

As Richard and Jackie Holmes head into their golden years, they’re getting a little help from golden energy. The 5.9 kilowatt Gaiam Real Goods solar electric system they installed at their home in Occidental, Calif., in 2003, has substantially lowered their monthly utility bills.

“It has turned out to be quite wonderful,” Jackie says. “Our bill this month was $5.60 [you read that right: five dollars and sixty cents]. Before solar, it was $324.”

The Holmes’ “hideously high” utility bills were due in large part to water pumping for their swimming pool and pond. “Pumping really, really gobbles energy,” she explains, a reality that wasn’t sitting well with their checkbook or their conscience.

But the couple says their decision to go solar was rooted in something deeper. “Our main impetus was to lower our monthly bills because we are now on a fixed income,” Jackie says. “But we’ve been energy conscious since the first oil crisis in the ’70s.” Knowing that the world already faces a decline in world oil reserves, the couple says their reliance on fossil fuels also factored into their decision.

“The cost of energy is never going to go down again,” Jackie says. “It makes sense to do this if you can afford it. Plus, the payback period will be a lot shorter.”

Fortunately, Jackie and Richard had prepared to rely more on renewable energy, even before solar panels were an economically viable option for consumers. When they built their home 26 years ago, they oriented the house to take advantage of as much solar gain as possible, and they didn’t plant trees on the south side of their home. That made Gaiam Real Goods Solar Technician Jason Cotter’s job a little easier — he had no problem finding a spot to place two arrays of 16 panels (32 total) on their large plot of land.

It still gives Jackie and Richard plenty of space to devote to their favorite hobby: gardening. Of course, now the sun will be benefiting more than just their tomatoes and summer squash.

“It’s a great feeling to get nearly all our energy from the sun," Jackie says. “It’s going to be absolutely wonderful as we get older.”

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