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Ossining Couple Watch Electric Meter Go Backward

OSSINING, N.Y. – Lately, every time Ossining village residents Tom and Heather McArdle head up the driveway they feel compelled to slam on the brakes.

“We always have to check our meter to see how much we’ve saved,” Heather McArdle said. “We always have to take a second because we’re not really used to seeing a negative number.”

The McArdles recently purchased solar energy panels from SolarCity . Founded in 2006, SolarCity says it has completed or is working on more than 20,000 projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington state and Washington, D.C.

But the McArdles are the first customers in Westchester, and after only three weeks, the couple say they can literally see what they’re saving.

Because energy meters aren't programmed to count negatively, once the solar panels produce more than they use, the McArdles see the number revert from zero to 99999. While reading the number at 99895 Monday, Tom and Heather McArdle couldn’t help smiling.

“You never see a negative number when you look at this thing,” Tom McArdle said. “It’s always bad news. That’s why we have stop and look at it every day when we go down the driveway. Seeing that 99895 means we've produced 105 (kilowatts) more than we've used in only three weeks. It’s pretty incredible.”

The McArdles have lived in the village of Ossining for 17 years and have always considered themselves to be environmentally conscious, but they were always unsure whenever someone would mention the word “solar.”

“I've always looked at solar energy as a concept, but we never thought we’d be purchasing panels,” Tom McArdle said. “While I’m not trying to be a promoter for SolarCity, their business model that allowed us to only lease the panels was very interesting. So if technology changes or we’re not seeing the savings we want, we’re not stuck with an obsolete system.”

Both Heather and Tom McArdle say they’ll keep an eye on whether they want to continue using solar. But as Heather McArdle teaches high school science, she said she’s now able to give a firsthand account of whether solar energy really works.

“I already have activities we do with real energy bills so they can really learn about energy and how it translates to their lives,” Heather McArdle said. “But now they’ll be able to compare it to the base model of what we’re doing so I can bring to them the positives and even the negatives of using alternative fuels.”

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