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Maybe going green really is worth it.

2 minute read

Two years ago, J.W. Brooks from The Green Swan bought himself energy independence. And the government helped.

He purchased 14 solar panels from a company called SunPower. “The gross purchase price was $18,816,” he told me. “But my total tax refunds amounted to $10,386, which resulted in a net amount of $8,430.”

The tax refunds came courtesy of both the state of North Carolina, where he lives, and the federal government. Unfortunately, the politicians in North Carolina let the tax credits expire, but he says he still receives the federal credits.

“I rarely receive a utility bill anymore,” says Brooks. “We now just receive a statement that shows how much energy we generated, how much we used, and how much extra was generated that we put back on the grid as a credit for us to use later.”

The excess energy generated in the summer carries over to winter months. As a result, if a winter month doesn’t produce a lot of sun, it doesn’t matter — they still generated enough previous credits to cover the months that are less sunny.

Another cool aspect to his SunPower solar panels is the dashboard they provide on his computer.

“All I do is log in and all my stats are on my personal dashboard,” says Brooks. “It shows me exactly the level of impact my solar panels have on reducing CO2 emissions. For example, in 2016 we prevented 5 tons of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of 10 barrels of crude oil, or 107 mature trees grown or 4,597 pounds of coal. I feel like we’re doing our small part to help the planet.”

But his solar panel pride does not end with finances or even the environment. Brooks and his wife have a three-year-old child and another on the way.

“Being a role model for the next generation is important to us,” says Brooks. “I want my kids to know that we were responsible energy consumers. And I want to educate them not only about finances, but all-around responsible living. It feels good knowing you’re doing your part.”

Of course, doing your part is a lot easier when you’re financially rewarded for it.

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About the Author

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski

Bienkowski is a contributing writer and is the face of's 'By the Numbers' videos.

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