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Founded in 1979, Solar Oregon is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit membership organization providing public education and community outreach to encourage Oregonians to choose solar energy.
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Solar Oregon Ambassadors Celebrate PV + EV at Home

Solar Ambassadors Richard and Pauline Mather have a new companion for their residential solar system: A luminescent, pearl-colored 2011 Nissan Leaf all-electric powered car.

Solar Oregon Ambassadors Celebrate PV + EV at Home

Richard and Pauline Mather proudly show off their new electric vehicle, and not-so-new PV system.

by Kim Berhorst
Salem, OR

Solar Ambassadors Richard and Pauline Mather have a new companion for their residential solar system: A luminescent, pearl-colored 2011 Nissan Leaf all-electric powered car.


The Mathers hosted a Solar Party July 16 at their Salem, OR, home to celebrate the integration of their rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system, an in-house electric vehicle (EV) charging station, and their Nissan Leaf, delivered in May after a year’s wait. They were lucky: Because of the recent tsunami in Japan where the Leafs were manufactured, the anticipated delivery date of fall 2010 was delayed by several more months and only a handful of buyers got cars in the first Oregon shipment.


Though the Mathers had their 3.22 kW PV system installed in December 2009, they delayed their party until the Leaf arrived to celebrate both. More importantly, they wanted to show how marrying the two further decreases their use of fossil fuels. “The solar provides electricity for the house and now it charges our car,” said Richard. “It just makes sense.”


When I first met the Mathers for their solar site assessment, I’d no idea how much they valued sustainable living practices, and further, how deeply they connect their everyday activities to the environmental health of the world at large. When their home was built in 1993, they made energy efficiency a priority inside and out, laying gravel beds in place of grass lawns, and landscaping with drought-resistant plants long before it was “trendy.”


Retired and in their seventies, Pauline says they both were raised with a keen awareness of conservation and sustainable living practices. “I’m 100 percent Dutch,” Pauline said. Recycling and reusing everyday items was “just a part of life.”


Richard, a former railroad engineer with the State of Oregon, first gained appreciation for solar PV when railroads began powering signals with the help of solar modules. When they purchased an RV a few years ago, they got one with solar modules on the roof. Now, they have their own solar-powered car.


“Getting the solar wasn’t just about how much money we could save or what the monetary payback would be,” Richard said. “It’s about doing something that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and provides clean energy for the next generation.”


Early Adoptors


Not only were the Mathers the first in their neighborhood to get a solar PV system, they also were the first Salem Electric (SE) solar net-metering customers. Their electric utility is a coop serving Salem and Keizer. Their independent advocacy was essential to SE establishing a residential net-metering program, helping smooth the way for other homeowners on the SE grid to go solar. Everyone involved – the SE Board and staff, the Mathers, and contractors – learned something new from each other. It was the Mathers’ kind patience and continued enthusiasm that buoyed everyone through the multiple obstacles to project completion.


The Mathers’ friends and family weren’t surprised when Richard and Pauline pre-ordered their Leaf about a year ago through the EV Project, a U.S. Dept. of Energy- sponsored program aiming to encourage the deployment of a nationwide EV infrastructure. Nor is it surprising that they also are among the first Oregonians to get a Leaf. Richard and Pauline are known pioneers among their friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances when it comes to adopting new energy-saving “green” technology and sustainable living practices.


“They’re early-adopters for sure, especially when it comes to environmentalism,” said a friend who volunteers with Richard at One Fair World, a Fair Trade goods retail shop in Salem. They were among the first in Oregon to get a Toyota Prius hybrid, which they replaced with a Toyota Camry hybrid, and now they’re among only handful of folks statewide who have their own solar-powered Leaf.


The “goods”


From the street leading to the Mathers’ driveway, guests could view the 3.22 kW roof-mounted system – two unassuming rows of black on black monocrystalline modules on the southern plane. It wasn’t till they walked up the drive (past the genuine railroad signal planted near the street) and to the garage that they got to see (many for the first time), all the “goods.”


The Mathers’ Leaf was parked near their RV that boasted a sign stating “Solar On Roof.” Inside the garage, Nissan Leaf sales representative Jacob Halsey, of McMinnville’s Chuck Colvin Auto Center, was bumming a charge for his demo Leaf. While the north side of the garage held about 30 chairs and a buffet table, it was nearly empty. Most guests were clustered around one of three other places.


At one end, Halsey answered questions standing between the wall-mounted Blink charger (220 V), installed by Salem’s Cherry City Electric, and the Leaf’s open hood, a thick black cord snaking out. At the other end, Richard showed people how to read his Fronius inverter and electric meters. And just outside, Pauline showed guests how their Leaf worked from a driver’s perspective. Between talking sessions, guests got to take test rides in either Leaf, with Richard or Jacob at the wheel.


According to Richard, their Leaf currently uses approximately 4 kWh per mile, and the regenerative braking system “recovers” energy while braking and coasting. The battery, made up of multiple lithium-ion battery cells, allows twice the power at half the weight of previous battery technology, and its average range per charge is 100 miles, according to Halsey. Pauline says it’s the perfect car to drive around town for errands, and after driving it for a couple months more, they hope to add additional solar modules to accommodate the extra demand.


Solar Ambassadors like Richard and Pauline are renewable energy advocates who “walk the talk.” Not only have they incorporated solar technology in their own lives, they actively advocate by speaking at events, teaching others, and celebrating the many ways “going solar” has enhanced their quest to reduce their carbon footprint. We thank them for leading by example and inspiring others.


To see their Solar OR Ambassadors profile, click on the Solar Ambassadors link and search “Mather.”

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