Powering Through Key West Hurricanes at Ruben Valdez’s Solar Home

Guest Blog | February 18, 2015 | Climate Change, Energy Policy, Extreme Weather, Solar

This guest blog is the fifth in a series on diversity in the solar energy field in Florida and was written for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy by Alissa Jean Schafer, Marketing and Media Director with the US Solar Institute. Click here for other posts in that series. 

What do the post office, organic seaweed, hurricanes, and solar energy have to do with each other? They are all elements of Ruben Valdez’s story of going solar at his home in Key West. Fourth generation Cuban American, Valdez made the decision to go solar several years ago, and it’s a decision he is reaping the benefits from today.

The idea of going solar was one that stuck in his mind particularly because of the special weather concerns that South Florida can bring. “I’m in hurricane country here, and this area is prone to get hit quite often. I knew that backup power would be a good idea, either from a generator or another source. I chose solar partially because it doesn’t require fuel, like a generator would. If a hurricane hits and we get flooded, fuel can be hard to come by. Solar is reliable.”

Valdez’s system is a 1.8 kW Bi-Modal solar installation. Bi-Modal means that it connects to the grid, but it also has a battery backup system for scenarios such as hurricane-related power outages. After researching his options and learning more about the many benefits of solar, Valdez realized that solar was the logical choice. After both a military career and 28 years of service in the US Post Office, Valdez understands the importance of making smart and reliable choices.

In addition to providing Valdez a source of back-up power, the solar system covers a majority of Valdez’s energy usage in the summer, and he reports an average 10-15% reduction of his energy bill year-round. “I’m seeing an immediate benefit, but it will pay off in the future as well.” Said Valdez. “Besides working with the post office, I am also in real estate so I know that adding solar to a property is one of the best ways to increase the property value. It’s a selling point! Who wouldn’t want solar on their house?”

So what about that organic seaweed? Well, in addition to powering his home, and providing backup power, the solar on Valdez’s house also powers production for his very own brand of fertilizer “Rubenito.” Made out of fish, seaweed, worm castings, and few other tasty ingredients, the “brewing” process is powered by solar. The ability to use solar energy for the production allows Valdez to create and sell the product without needing to increase his electric bill – a truly sustainable business plan.

Valdez fully supports helping more Floridians access solar energy. “The more solar, the better. It’s a no brainer.” Speaking specifically about Florida being one of the last states to not allow power purchasing agreements (PPA’s – a financing mechanism for people who want to go solar), Valdez encouraged the people of Florida to make the decision to go solar. “We’re always last in everything, so it’s like ‘Come on! Let’s go!’”


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