When Chris and Kate Heins first began house hunting, abundant natural light was high on their list of requirements. The couple toured dozens of homes before they found “the one.”
The recently built property is nestled in a quiet neighborhood close to the heart of Charlottesville’s downtown and provides an easy commute to the couple’s offices. The house has beautiful hardwood floors, plenty of space for a family, and wide front windows that let the sunshine stream in. Check, check, check.
All that natural light also makes the house ideal for a project that both Chris and Kate feel passionately about: generating their own carbon-free electricity.
Three years, one child, a puppy, and several small home-renovation projects later, Chris and Kate decided it was time to check this next priority off the list.
“We’re always looking for ways to minimize our impact on the earth,” says Kate. “We compost and recycle. We try to eat in a sustainable way. We work in a field that benefits our environment. Now we’re running on solar energy.”
Kate serves as associate general counsel for Apex Clean Energy. Prior to joining the wind industry, she was an environmental litigator. Chris is the vice president of accounting at Apex.
“Having a career that aligns with our ethics has always been important to each of us,” he says. “Apex’s core values match ours, especially when it comes to sustainability.”
In fact, one of the company’s sustainability programs helped remove any uncertainty from the Heinses’ decision to go solar.
“To the extent we have the funds and ability, we try to live as sustainably as possible. Installing PV panels made sense from an environmental standpoint as well as an economic perspective, particularly when we factored in the incentive,” says Kate.
Apex’s Solar Power Incentive program provides employees with cash rebates for the purchase and installation of residential solar generation systems, helping Apexers accelerate the shift to clean energy beyond the office. Employees are eligible for a bonus equivalent to 15 percent of the total price of the system, up to a maximum of $4,000.
“Having a career that aligns with our ethics has always been important to each of us. Apex’s core values match ours, especially when it comes to sustainability.”
“I designed a model to calculate the payback period with and without the generous Apex subsidy, and we found the incentive was a huge help,” says Chris.
“The subsidy shaved about three and a half years off the payback period. It’s fantastic.”
Charlottesville-based Sigora Solar installed the Heinses’ 6.6 kW system in December 2017. Solar energy generated from the sleek black panels will provide about 90 percent of the family’s power throughout the year.
“We’re installing a real-time monitor to see whether we’re a net user or producer in any given moment,” says Chris. “That’s the really exciting part about solar power. You always know exactly how much energy you’re producing, just like Apex’s ROCC.”
A smile lingers on Chris’s face as he imagines his very own version of Apex’s Remote Operations Control Center, an imposing room at the company’s headquarters filled with state-of-the-art technology that monitors the hundreds of turbines Apex manages every moment of the day. While the Heinses’ version will be on a slightly smaller scale—via an app on their phones—measuring efficiency and usage is a key part of their investment.
“The efficiency piece is just as important as the clean production side,” says Kate. “While the panels maximize what we can control with regards to production, we can always adjust our usage. We’re also having Sigora Solar perform an efficiency audit on our home to see where we can improve.”
Chris and Kate are early adopters and strong advocates of transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle—and they’ve had nothing but a positive experience.
“Our daughter worried that Santa and his reindeer might have trouble on the roof, but her concern was allayed Christmas morning when there were toys under the tree,” says Kate. “Beyond that, we have heard only excitement and curiosity from friends and neighbors about our new panels.”