A Pioneering Woman Goes Solar

 A local family chooses to go solar for three households. Judy Willingham recognizes the importance of reducing her carbon footprint by going solar and she has passed that idea on to her son Dodd. Dodd and his wife Joana also had solar installed at their own home and at their rental property too.

“We are going to be moving backward in comfort rather than forward in comfort if we don’t make some serious changes.” Judy truly believes that we need to make changes to reduce our footprint, she may just be “a drop in the bucket” but she is inspiring those around her in her family, her community and her church.

Judy Willingham is a retired Pharmacist settled in Redmond, Washington, and is a true pioneer woman. She has always pushed the limits and roles that society has placed on women; she received her college degree in pharmacy and launched her career in the early 60’s during an era of gender barrier for her profession. Judy’s scientific learning resulted in solar energy; captivating her attention as she began following it in the late 60’s while living in Southern California, where there is sunshine for solar year round. Judy has followed the advancements of solar since then, which she assumed would be a cloudy idea when she moved to the rain forest of Puget Sound from sunny central WA. It wasn’t until she met Howard Lamb, the founder of Sunergy Systems, a local employee-owned solar installation company, that the idea of solar in the Northwest was reborn again.

To Judy going solar is something “We have to do.” In December of 2012, Judy went solar! Sunergy Systems installed a 3.1kW Silicon Energy system on her south facing roof in Redmond Washington. Being part of a Homeowner’s Association, her install did not go without getting approval. Two neighbors signed off on the solar install, both of which were excited to be a part of Judy’s process. They were a bit disappointed when the install was complete that they were unable to see it from the street, as the system is on the back south-facing roof.  Through her install, Judy has inspired solar in her community!

From the community to her church, Unity of Bellevue, Judy is seen as a leader with a “Pioneer Spirit”, as Reverend Nancy puts it. Judy is a licensed Unity teacher and Prayer Chaplain Coordinator at Unity of Bellevue, where she has also served as a significant leader in their Going Green Team. The Church just received an award for “Most Improved” in the Eastside Green Business Challenge. “The importance of being green is part of who they are at Unity of Bellevue!” says Reverend Nancy.

Reverend Nancy looks forward to the day that they will be able to do solar on the church, but she notes that the congregation looks to role models such as Judy. “The idea of solar can be overwhelming, if Judy who is retired can do it, then I can too!”

It was on Unity of Bellevue’s Going Green Team when Judy met Howard of Sunergy Systems. She didn’t know that the idea of solar would become her reality so quickly. There was a great confidence in going with Sunergy Systems, to do the project she has been waiting years for.  A 3.1kilowatt Silicon Energy system is what Judy decided on because it made dollars and sense.

Judy selected Silicon Energy for two main reasons. The first reason was the paypack, with the current State’s incentive program Judy’s system will pay for itself in her lifetime. Silicon Energy, being an in State manufacturer, receives $0.54 per kilowatt-hour it produces through the State’s production incentive until 2020.  The production incentive was established to create local green jobs in our State, which is exactly what it has done and supporting local jobs was Judy’s second reason to go with Silicon Energy.

Judy wasn’t the only one in her family who went solar with Silicon Energy in December 2012. Her son Dodd and wife Joanna Willingham went solar on not one, but two of their properties! Dodd has been exposed to the idea of solar and renewable energy for many years, with his father working for NASA and Judy a Pharmacist; science was the topic of conversation at the dinner table.

Dodd’s interest in solar took off shortly after high school, but living in Seattle around all the beautiful trees, he thought maybe it was wind instead of solar he should look into because of shading. He thought about buying land in Ellensburg for wind power and invested in the stock market for solar, although he lost money in the stock market, the idea of solar wasn’t gone.  It was always an option for Dodd, as long as he could minimize his global footprint and that it was economically viable as well.

With the values gained from his mother Judy of thinking globally and acting locally, along with the values of his wife Joana of acting sustainably, going solar for Dodd was a sound investment. So sound, that they went solar at both their home and rental property.  Joana says, “It makes good business sense too. Our tenants are able to participate in Green Renewable Energy and through Net Metering it is sustainable for us, a win/win for both side.”

Sunergy Systems installed a 5.6kW SolarWorld system at their home in Bothell. The SolarWorld modules paired with the EnPhase mirco inverter allows them to keep their trees in the back yard without worrying about shading and losing efficiency of their panels. Another reason Dodd and Joana choose SolarWorld was the fact that SolarWorld has been in business for over 30 years. Knowing that their system is a legacy they will pass on to their twins, a reputable solar module manufacturer was important. Their twins will grow up with solar as the norm, understanding the underlying principles. They even got a Solar Powered Logo car for Christmas too. 

The made-in-Washington 3.1kW Silicon Energy system that Sunergy Systems installed on Dodd and Joana’s rental house will be paid off in 7-8 years with the State’s production incentive. “7-8 year payback, can’t beat that by any other investment!” stated Dodd ecstatically.

The State’s incentive programs and the “family discount” from Sunergy Systems made solar a very appealing investment to all of the Willingham’s. Dodd actually had bids from two other solar installers, but choose Sunergy Systems based off reviews with the BBB, along with the product selection and durability.

The Willingham family is excited for the day that solar on a roof is the norm and seenas attractive.  Three more homes now have solar on them and as Judy would say, “That is more drops in the bucket!”