inside ases | american solar energy society news
Boston Couple Beats Wall Street
with Solar and Geothermal Investments
By tErrI StEELE
of Going Solar
After investing $62,000 in
renewable energy systems,
LuAnn Kuder and Maureen
O’Brien reaped several
• $9,310 cash rebate for the
purchase of a 14-panel,
2.7-kilowatt solar system
from the Massachusetts
• $2,000 one-time federal
• $1,000 one-time state tax
• $2,150 annual heating
bill (oil) and electricity
bill savings. (Future utility
increases will add to the
return on investment.)
• Net-metering payments.
metering allows the
system owners to sell
surplus electricity back
to the utility.)
In today’s uncertain economy, Newbury, Mass., residents LuAnn Kuder and Maureen O’Brien can sleep soundly. They’ve found a way to beat Wall Street with the returns
on their retirement savings.
They invested nearly $62,000 of their retirement savings
in solar and geothermal technologies for their 1,800-square-
foot home: $38,000 for a 500-foot-deep geothermal pump
to heat and cool it and $24,000 for a 2.7-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system to accommodate the bulk of their electricity
needs — including power drawn by the geothermal pump.
Copyright © 2010 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
during the American Solar Energy Society’s 15th Annual
National Solar Tour ( nationalsolartour.org), the world’s
largest grassroots solar event. The National Solar Tour, taking place Oct. 2, features open-house tours of thousands of
solar-powered homes and businesses across North America. Solar-savvy home and business owners (and installers)
provide families the opportunity to learn how solar works,
how solar technology has advanced over the years and,
of course, how others can realize the many economic benefits associated with solar energy. Last year, 150,000 people
in 49 states participated. The Kuder-O’Brien open house
is part of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s
leg of the tour, the Green Buildings Tour
“The National Solar Tour introduced
us to the renewable energy options we’re
now enjoying,” Kuder, who works as a
social worker advocating for senior citi-
zens, said. “We decided to be a part of
the tour to help others understand their
options, particularly because benefits
have improved. People can now earn
more money and stimulate green job
growth. It’s also a lot of fun.”
Kuder and O’Brien originally con-
sidered a smaller initial investment in
improving their home: spending $20,000
on central air, a new oil burner and insu-
lation. “But for another $30,000, we’re
using renewable energy systems that bring
us immense short-term and ongoing pay-
back on our money,” O’Brien said. “We
definitely made the right choice.”
what’s right for them may not be the best option for others.
“We’re not recommending that folks sell what they’ve
got in the market without talking to a qualified advisor,”
Kuder said. “That wouldn’t make sense. But in the realm
of retirement savings, there may be other investments to
consider. My stock prices haven’t yet come back, but our
green investments are still working for us.”
Regardless of what happens with the economy, Kuder
and O’Brien said they’re happy just to have lowered their
utility bills for the next 20 years.
“We are energy-independent, earning money on our investments, living more comfortably and loving it,” Kuder said.
Terri Steele is a San Diego-based freelancer and publicist for
the ASES National Solar Tour. She can be reached at solarsavvy
@ cox.net. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/solarsavvy.
LUANN KUDER AND MAUREEN O’BRIEN
Luann Kuder and maureen o’Brien spent $62,000 on a 2.7-kilowatt photovoltaic
system and other energy-related improvements. they calculate that they’re earning
7. 4 percent on the investment.
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In the short term, the investment garnered a $9,300 cash
rebate, $3,000 in state and federal tax credits, an improved
property valuation, a larger and more comfortable usable
living space and immunity to rising energy costs.
“Our solar and geothermal investments are giving us
more for our money than anything we have in the bank —
or in the market,” said 61-year-old O’Brien, a former H&R
Block franchisee and financial consultant. She’s developed
a spreadsheet to track the solar investments, their calculated
ongoing savings and the incentives they’re receiving.
While their Wall Street investments have fallen 6. 8
percent in value over the past four years, the green home
improvements are saving $2, 100 annually, for a 7. 4 percent
annualized return on investment.