Rich Warren | The times they are a-chargin’ – Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette

Rich Warren | The times they are a-chargin’ – Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette

“Let the Sunshine In” resounded as the anthem from the musical “Hair” when it debuted on Broadway in 1968.

In that year, photo-voltaic cells, now more commonly known as solar cells, were very expensive novelties. I bought one about 4 inches square for about $20 that could barely power a transistor radio.

Perhaps Bob Dylan’s song, “The Times They Are A-Changin,” or “are a-chargin’,” is equally prophetic.

In mid-December, StraightUp Solar installed 23 solar panels on my roof, which on a good sunny day should generate almost 7.5 kilowatts.

StraightUp estimated that that should compensate for about 98 percent of our yearly electricity usage.

Of course, just like miles per gallon in a car, real-world numbers are tricky. We even asked our very artistic arborist, Gus, to carefully remove a tree limb that shaded some of the roof.

My solar quest started with a friend in Massachusetts boasting to me that he was going “solar.”

My next-door neighbor installed solar panels on his roof about three years ago, when it was more expensive than today.

People generate a lot of hot air discussing climate change. Most of us lack much individual control over greenhouse gas emissions.

Sure, you can drive a hybrid or electric car, which is not satisfactory for many people. You can install a highly efficient furnace and air conditioner while dialing down the heating and cooling in your home. Please don’t lecture me about staying off airplanes. Some readers of this paper abhor wind turbines.

Installing solar panels for electricity is a major way you
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