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I have to admit, there was a time in my life when I heard someone talking about Alternative Energy and I would roll my eyes. I had had a long career at a local public power company working in the power plants that produce energy with coal, diesel fuel and natural gas. They all worked pretty well, and I saw no reason to mess with success.

But in 2015, my wife and I did some investigating and found that the price of solar power for residential use was coming down quickly and made financial sense. A benefit of homeownership is the option to make your home more energy efficient. With the federal tax credits, assistance from the local utility company and low-interest loans guaranteed by the State of Nebraska, our calculations told us the payoff was about 13 years.

Now, 13 years sounds like a long time, but the solar panels are guaranteed to produce 95 percent of their full power for 30 years, so we decided to move ahead and plan the project. We worked with a local company here in Lincoln and ordered 6,200 watts of solar panels and associated equipment. How much is 6,200 watts of power? It’s enough solar energy to provide about 80 percent of our average-sized home’s electrical needs. We don’t have batteries to store power, so if we overproduce, the excess power goes back to the grid and we get paid for it. If we underproduce, we buy power off the grid like normal.

The panels went up on a very frigid day in January 2016. Since that day, we have never had one day of down time due to maintenance. They have been 100 percent maintenance-free. We had space on our lot with no trees, so we had them mounted on the ground behind the house, and no one even notices them.

They say nothing in life is free, and it might cost a few bucks to gather the sunlight. But I know the sun is going to go on shining for a good long time, and I aim to make use of that free fuel! I save money, and we use less fossil fuel. Win-win!

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L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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