Exactly one year ago, I had the roof replaced on my Washington, D.C., row house. A couple of days ago, I received by mail a $650 check from Sol Systems. Sol Systems is a solar energy finance and development firm that brokers Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs, each of which represents 1,000 kWh of electricity produced by a solar electric system. What do SRECs have to do with a new roof?

Talking with my roofer last spring, I didn’t see the connection either. I simply needed to replace the roof on my house before it sprang a major leak. But my roofer was way ahead of me. He mentioned a program in D.C. that, coupled with Stimulus tax credits, could put a solar power system on my house for not much more than the cost of a new membrane roof. Long story short, after doing the math, we got the municipal grant, replaced the roof, installed a 3.2 kWh thin-film solar system, and got the Stimulus tax credit. The Sol Systems check was for the first two SRECs produced by the new system.

Today, not only are my electricity bills considerably lower than they were a year ago, but the utility is paying me because I generate electricity from a renewable source. (My meter occasionally runs backward, too, but my utility does not yet pay for “net metering,” which would reimburse me for the actual electricity I’m producing.) And it’s all because my roofer saw an opportunity and did something about it.

Opportunity Knocks

Like the Stimulus issue of REMODELING last June, this month’s issue is also energy-related. It explores the burgeoning home performance industry from the perspective of the potential benefits to remodelers and their clients of Home Star and related legislation currently passing through Congress. As was the case with last year’s Stimulus issue, how valuable the information is depends on what you do with it.

My roofer wasn’t particularly interested in solar power, but he figured that solar systems would help sell roofing. (And as a side benefit, his margin on a roof-with-solar-system is more than that of a roofing job alone.) So he took the initiative to educate himself on the law, formed a partnership with a solar power installer, and learned how to navigate through the paperwork and the federal and municipal bureaucracies.

Energy efficiency is big business and getting bigger. That’s true whether or not you buy into the notion of global warming. As the Gulf oil spill has brought into sharp relief, our energy future is pretty grim unless we find new sources of energy and, equally important, find ways of building and remodeling more efficiently. But the opportunities that represents won’t fall into your lap.

You have to reach out and grab them.

—Sal Alfano, editorial director, REMODELING.