Strobist is Now Powered by Light, too

On a kinda-related note, as of late last week Strobist's HQ began running on solar power. We only had enough roof space to offset about half of the juice we were suckin'. But it's a start.

If you are on the fence about solar, take a look at some of the incentives that are being thrown around. We got a 30% federal tax credit, a Maryland state rebate, a county property tax rebate and are selling the renewable energy credits.

All in all, that knocked nearly 70% off of the bill. It made the numbers a no-brainer.

We went with a solar water heater, too. So most any time Strobist finds itself in hot water, it will be because of light. Fitting, I think.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you are getting ready to launch into some kind of political manifesto in the comments about how incentives to go green are BS, please don't bother.

(Sun-catching photo by Strobist reader Wirehead.)


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Blogger gLaNDix said...

Very cool!!!

January 18, 2010 11:57 AM  
Blogger House Light Gallery said...

That sounds great. But what are the facts? How long before it pays for itself; capital cost against fuel savings? Just curious because the effort to do this is admirable.

January 18, 2010 12:32 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

We just went with Geothermal Heat...our energy costs dropped amazingly!! Go green power!

January 18, 2010 12:47 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

I have friends who designed a house using multiple types of green power. The solar component alone payed for itself well inside of ten years. They have no air conditioning, and use less than 30 gallons of oil in two years. Anyone interested in modifying their homes can search "tour solar homes" and probably find many people in the local area who have open houses.

January 18, 2010 1:49 PM  
Blogger JS said...

First, your judicious use of TTL... then, occasional use of on-camera flash... now natural light?

"You've changed, man!"

January 18, 2010 1:58 PM  
Blogger Eric Duminil said...


Plus, one panel gives you around 700 000 000 Ws every year!
That should be enough for an SB800 at full power around 10 million times :)



PS: If you need a detailed study of what your installation should deliver, don't hesitate to ask!

January 18, 2010 2:08 PM  
Blogger didymus said...

Not only are you cheap... you're green too!
It is a no-briner for sure!


January 18, 2010 2:37 PM  
Blogger David said...


The net return will be between 11-19% after tax ROI net of rebates. So payback is 5-9 years, with a return better than any safe bond I could find.

And the good feeling every day is a kicker.

January 18, 2010 2:54 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

So awesome!!!
Congrats! I will eventually go solar, once I'm not renting anymore, haha.

January 18, 2010 2:55 PM  
Blogger House Light Gallery said...

You'll probably hit the 5 year end ... what with inflation and fuel shortages ... nice one ... and very good to know ...

... I'm sure you'll have many other things to feel good about ... and I'm sure you won't get smug either ...



January 18, 2010 3:19 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

How do the panels stand up to bad weather, i.e. high winds and hail storms?

January 18, 2010 3:47 PM  
Blogger Jon Brown said...

Awesome! I'm surprised it pays off for you that quickly in Maryland as I wouldn't think you'd get that much solar inundation... kinda makes it inexcusable for anyone in the southwest to do the same.

January 18, 2010 3:56 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Great!! I love to hear that you also care about our nature. Let's save our planet, we only have this one and only!

January 18, 2010 4:49 PM  
Blogger Eric Duminil said...

@Andy :
PV modules have to withstand weather tests to be brought to the market.

Manufacturers basically launch big chunks of ice balls at relatively high speed directly at them.

Any hail or storm that would destroy them would also destroy your house & car!

@David :
I don't know if you're interested, but my job is basically to design & monitor PV installations.
You could give more info about your modules & inverter, and I could try to predict what should come out of it every year.
If there's a big difference, we'd know there's something wrong.
Plus, I'd be more than happy to give you something back, as a thank you for all your lighting knowledge!

January 18, 2010 4:49 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I'm all for using new technologies to harness previously-unharnessable sources of energy, but this is only a "no-brainer" because of the government subsidies. I'll get excited about solar when the technology is advanced to the point that the industry can sustain itself without Uncle Sam tipping the scales in the marketplace.

January 18, 2010 7:11 PM  
Blogger EricR said...

I live in Seattle. Wish there was a way to capture energy from constant cloud cover :-(

January 18, 2010 7:34 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Histed said...

Good for you. and the world-- it affects all of us !

Today I was on the phone to see about getting grants for insulation in the UK: our govt makes a lot of noise about it. The property in question has solid brick walls (no cavity) and no insulation in a loft conversion. (1730s building...). No grants. they will only provide something like uk £200 towards rolling rockwool down in a loft, (a 3 hour job they say), or injecting insulation into caivty walls. All laudible... but it is the minority of old housing stock in the UK: the world needs to take seriously these issues to really encourage people to do it, for properties that are not easy to make energy efficient: but still need it. Props to your enlightened politicians!
Meanwhile I am insulating: at my cost: which will cost many thousands. I need to.. it is a moral and environmental argument.. not a simple financial one I feel.

Well done David for it making financial and emotional sense-- and allowing us all to benefit albeit in a nano way from your love of the planet !


January 18, 2010 7:41 PM  
Blogger David said...


IMO, your way might be a bit of a Catch-22. If no invested in solar until it paid for itself, then solar adoption would never achieve the economies of scale it would need to reach that goal.

The fact that governmental bodies at nearly every level in the US are bridging the gap between cost and benefit on renewable energy is the best way to ensure the scale happens that is needed to bring the cost down to market.

Additionally, our energy needs are quickly outstripping what our power grid can supply. Granted, the mid-east Atlantic region might be a little more forward thinking than some other areas of the country, but BG&E is encouraging people to go renewable.

Simply put, they need the extra KW's to make sure we don't get more rolling brown-outs in the summer.

In addition to supporting solar, they give people incentives to have radio-addressable A/C units for summer and hot-water units in winter.

January 18, 2010 8:12 PM  
Blogger Nicholas Freeman said...

congrats on the awesome update. the earth appreciates it.

January 18, 2010 8:17 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

There's a neat web page for folks interested in solar:

It allows you to draw a hypothetical panel on your root with google maps and then draw a line perpendicular to your roofline to help it with orientation.

From that, it tells you solar potential of your roof and provides tables, etc to estimate cost and payback figures.

January 19, 2010 9:33 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Congratulations on joining the solar crowd. We installed 24 photovoltaic panels in May 2008 and generated 78% of our total load the first 12 months -- in Bellingham, WA. We're grid-tied and net metered. Our tax credits were less than David's, but we also see it as a long-term investment that will pay back at an increasing rate as power rates go up. We sold bank stock to pay for it. And I've licensed photos of the installation as stock.

January 19, 2010 10:25 AM  
Blogger Shawn Chamberlin said...

thats really cool, moving into the solar power realm. i am curious, with this tax cuts, etc. do these only apply for Maryland or is this available to say, Virginia? I dont have the money to fork out, but its definitely something to consider for the future. I love the fact you can re-sell the power you dont use, what a great idea. the initial investment is probably kinda steep, but in the long run, a great idea. thanks for sharing.

January 19, 2010 10:03 PM  
Blogger Dave Kee said...

The fact is the government subsidizes all forms of energy use in one way or another. The biggest subsidy is the failure to account for the destruction of the natural environment caused by carbon based fuels.

January 20, 2010 12:52 AM  
Blogger Dalton Gomez Photo and Stuff said...

Very nice! If only you could re capture all of the light you have ever released with your flashes then you would be set!

January 20, 2010 5:09 PM  
OpenID fotoreportaze said...

Great photo by wirehead :) I like very much photos with overpowered sun! ;)

January 21, 2010 4:36 PM  
Blogger David said...

They do not produce power when covered by snow. The last two storms we had in MD were unusual to the point of being historic. We normally get a few snow a year of 4" or less.

We are still tied into the grid, and will be suckling at the teat of the coal-fired power plant for a few days.

February 07, 2010 2:45 PM  
Blogger bobusn said...

David, thanks for the referral to Greenspring--they've been terrific. We ran a number of our own very conservative ROI scenarios and, from a financial perspective, this really makes sense here in PG County, Maryland. Installation is scheduled for June.

Until your post, I hadn't even looked at the incentives and ROI. Thanks again!

March 18, 2010 5:48 PM  
Blogger Brian Smokler said...

I'm curious how the solar installation is working out for you all. Any issues you didn't anticipate-roof leaking, neighbors saying it's ugly, power production not what was estimated, etc. I'm considering a PV array and would like to hear about your experience.


January 06, 2011 4:01 PM  
Blogger David said...


Sorry, did not notice your comment when it dropped in. We have been 100% happy with our PV and hot water heater. There are now 5 houses in our neighborhood with solar, FWIW.


February 16, 2011 11:15 PM  

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