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Richard Correia saves $20,000 on solar panel installation

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Richard Correia outside his house. To the left is the charger for his electric car, and on the roof are his solar panels (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

While many people want to support renewable energy in Bermuda, the cost of installing solar panels can be prohibitive.

Solar panels for a small cottage can cost more than $30,000.

Richard Correia is one of a growing number of people finding creative ways around the costs.

Richard Correia saved money by installing solar panels himself (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Last year, he saved himself $16,000 by installing the panels himself, and saved another $4,000 through the Government Solar Panel Rebate Programme, which has since been cancelled.

He decided to buy solar panels after purchasing a three-bedroom home two years ago.

“I wanted to save money on electricity,” Mr Correia said. “I also wanted to save the environment.”

He already does his bit for the Earth by driving an electric car.

Two companies quoted him $35,000 for 30 solar panels.

“The cost was quite high,” Mr Correia said. “I did not want to get a bank loan, and it would be seven or eight years before I saw any return on my investment.”

Doing the work himself was an intriguing project.

“I had always been interested in energy,” he said. “At one point I worked for Shaw Enterprises selling generators.”

Mr Correia is not a certified electrician, and he admitted that there could be risks to working with the power grid. But he had the guidance of Sunnyside Solar, and a neighbour who is an electrical engineer.

“Sunnyside did all the leg work, in terms of design and planning,” he said.

Before starting, he had his roof checked by a professional to make sure it could handle the installation.

“When you are installing something on your roof the fear is that you could cause leakage,” he said. “Your roof is very expensive. A lot of people don’t want panels on the roof but I did not have any choice.”

He and a friend worked nights and weekends over the course of several weeks to get 35 solar panels set up on the north side of his house, where his roof catches the most sun.

He fired up the solar panels last May.

“It was straight forward,” Mr Correia said. “The hardest part was just getting started. But we got everything going correctly the first try. And so far, there have been no leaks. It was very interesting to put it together and I was very proud,” he said.

He felt even better when he got his first Belco bill which had dropped from $350 to $450 monthly to $30 monthly.

“Sometimes I even have a $7 credit,” Mr Correia said.

His dream is to eventually reach a Net Zero bill, while still running air conditioners and dehumidifiers in the house. To this end, he has purchased more solar panels and intends to install them soon.

“I am going to expand,” he said. “But this will be a completely separate system from the first.”

One of the challenges of installing solar panels on a Bermuda roof is that they have to be removed when the roof needs to be cleaned and painted. But Mr Correia said there are new roof coatings on the market that mean you only need to repaint your roof every seven years or so.

Mr Correia said every new construction or renovation project should include solar panels. But he does not recommend a DIY solar power installation project for just anyone.

“You need to have some skills working in this arena,” he said.

Sunnyside Solar have set up more than 40 systems in the last three years.

“We launched for DIY people,” said Claire Smith who founded the company with Nick Hutchings. “We have customers like Richard. There are so many trades people in Bermuda that can do it and get solar for a really good price.”

But they have installers, who are independent contractors, if customers cannot install the systems themselves.

Ms Smith was frustrated with local resistance to how the roof looks with solar panels.

“Do you want to run your fridge?” she said. “Gone are the days when we have the luxury of saying I don’t like to look at it.”

She said the solar panels they sell are not just affordable, but a terrific investment.

“It is 12 per cent return on your investment, and you are doing the right thing,” she said. “I don’t understand why more people aren’t jumping at it.”

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Published April 19, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated April 20, 2023 at 7:53 am)

Richard Correia saves $20,000 on solar panel installation

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