Peder and Julie Norby wanted us to share their unique story of living and driving on the power of the sun. The family was tired of their money going to foreign countries to import oil so that they could drive their vehicles. They were sick of the high cost and spikes in price for fuel as they pumped $150 in gas to fill up their cars every few days. Finally, the Norbys decided it was time to embrace emerging technologies and make a change.
The First Step: Constructing their home in 2006 with conservation in mind, the Norbys included a 4.5kW Solar PV System from Stellar Solar. This system generated 8000kwh per year and, covered 90 percent of their household use. It is generally understood that the payoff of these Solar PV systems is four to seven years when replacing the utility cost of an average home.
The Second Step: In 2009 the Norby’s began driving the electric BMW Mini-E; driving 37,000 miles in more than two years all over San Diego. They found it fascinating being able to provide power to the car from electricity generated from their very own roof. After adding an additional 3kW PV system, they now had a personal “Sun Gas Station” for life. When replacing gasoline, Solar PV has a 3 year payoff, and the Norby’s were now saving about 90% of the price of gas, with PV having an equivalency to just $0.45 per gallon.
The Third Step: After two years of electric driving Julie stepped into the driver’s seat of the 2011 BMW ActiveE. The Norbys discovered that they did not need a gas car at all. After selling their last gasoline powered vehicle; the family now had a solar powered home and two electric cars in the garage.
The Bottom Line: The 2007 and 2009 investment in Solar PV totalling $30,000 has completely paid for itself over the past five plus years. After a cumulative change to EV and PV the Norbys have erased what used to be a bill of $10,000 a year for utilities and gasoline for both cars, to an annual bill of less than $500 for all of the above. This cost is essentially fixed for the rest of their lives; the sun never raises its price. The electric cars, a 2011 BMW ActiveE and a 2013 Honda Fit EV are less in monthly payments than their prior cars, a Volvo S60 and a Ford Escape.
The Norby family said it appreciates that the decision to generate renewable energy and drive zero emission cars is a measure towards a cleaner California. Air quality and health care cost are directly related; San Diego truly can live and drive on endless sunshine.
Julie is an Elementary School Principal in the Solana Beach School District; Peder is a San Diego County Planning Commissioner. They reside in Carlsbad, CA. Their home Herons’ House was the recipient of the 2008 Sandee Award presented to a homeowner for outstanding achievements in energy by the California Center for Sustainable Energy.