PennFuture Blog

Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues

Cloudy with a 100% Chance of Solar Power Generation

Bob and Susan Donnan have always had an appreciation for the environment, and after choosing to go solar at their home in Peters Township, common misconceptions about installing solar panels in Western Pennsylvania were quickly shattered. 

“I was surprised by how much energy could be stored on cloudy or partly cloudy days,” Susan said. “People think it has to be sunny all of the time and that is a misconception.”

The couple attended PennFuture’s Annual Pittsburgh Solar Tour in October 2017. Just a couple of weeks later during a trip to Home Depot, Bob spoke to representatives from Solar City, made an appointment for a free estimate, and made the switch to solar energy. 

The couple’s passion for clean energy stems from their shared desire to create a better world for future generations, especially their own family.

“My greatest concern is the environment I am leaving for my grandchildren. I worry about the future and I feel many people are concerned with profit and making money. I am concerned for my grandkids,” Susan said.

Susan, a volunteer with Face2Face Healing, and Bob, a retired landscaper, live in a home that now has 11 solar panels that are then backed up by a Tesla power wall. The panels are a 3.3 kilowatt system. The Tesla power wall is a rated 14 kilowatt hour lithium ion battery, of which 13.5 kilowatts are useable. The panels supply the house with energy, and any excess power produced by the solar panels is then stored in the power wall. This is helpful because it gives the home energy independence in the event that the grid goes down.

“There have been days when we put energy back on the grid, which is a good feeling,” Bob said. “Today, we were 97% self-powered. Yesterday, we were 100% self-powered and for the week, we have been 86% self-powered. This month, our home has been 72% self-powered.”

The combination of attending PennFuture’s Pittsburgh Solar Tour and then bumping into Solar City workers around the same time period spurred their choice to go solar.

“While on the tour, I learned more about the orientation of the panels and got a better idea of what the production would do for those families and households,” Bob said. “We learned about the SRECS and renewable credits. It just gave you a feel for seeing it up close and talking to someone about it, and hearing about their commitment, interest and their knowledge. Everyone was enthusiastic.”

They also liked the fact that many of the homes were right in their neighborhood.

“It came out to our local area and that made it more interesting to us,” Bob said. “These were areas I was familiar with and one place I drive past often. There was a nice group of people on the bus and snacks – you always remember the food.”

Bob and Susan encourage those interested to attend PennFuture’s Pittsburgh Solar Tour Oct. 6, 2018 to get an idea of the clean energy possibilities for their own families and homes.

“They can get a firsthand look for themselves, talk through how it works for them and be pretty specific, getting a close-up look at panels on a roof, learning about a power wall, how it works and what it does,” Bob said. 

Throughout the process, the couple has discovered the power of going solar and the possibilities it can bring, even if it’s a typically dreary Pittsburgh day.

“I think if I have learned something, it’s that I am kind of surprised to see that the panels still produce even after the sun goes over the house in the late afternoon and into the evening. We still get production. The panels produce energy for a lot longer period every day than I thought they would – it is surprising even on a grey, cloudy day, you still get production,” he said.

Already have solar? Become a stop on PennFuture's Pittsburgh Solar Tour by clicking here to sign up and spread the word! For more information on PennFuture’s Pittsburgh Solar Tour, contact and save the date for this year's event: Oct. 6, 2018.


Get the Latest onOur PennFuture

Sign up for email updates on the latest news, events, and opportunities to make a difference.

Sign Up