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Brilliant Harvest clients James and Barbara Reno tell their Hurricane Ian story

Barbara and James Reno

Sarasota County residents James and Barbara Reno love their solar + storage system – and they’re happy to talk about why. Designed and installed in 2017 and coming online in early 2018, the Renos’ system originally included 26 290-watt Hyundai solar panels and two Tesla Powerwall home batteries. Two years later, informed by the plentiful data available through monitoring, the Renos installed seven more panels, bringing the system closer to net-zero consumption.

“I wanted some kind of backup power for the house; the solar/battery option seemed like best option,” James says. “My wife and I also have a strong concern for the environment: this is our little contribution to not putting extra carbon into the atmosphere.”

James described one incident when the couple was watching TV and they heard a commotion outside. They walked out to learn that all the other 25 houses in their small development had lost power, due to a blown transformer. The Renos hadn’t even been aware of the disruption as their Powerwalls seamlessly continued to provide power to their home while the grid was down.

While the Renos were out of town during Hurricane Ian, the storm provided another, more rigorous test of resiliency – and their system passed with flying colors. James explained that the Tesla Powerwall system invoked the Stormwatch mode before Ian had even reached Florida’s coast, using grid power to charge the batteries up to 100%. The morning of the storm, data showed small increments of time – perhaps 10-15 minutes each – where the system indicated it was providing battery power. Then, at 12:30 p.m., the power went out for two days.

“I was running the air conditioning at our normal temperature of 77 degrees. There were lights on in the house, and the stuff we really cared about – like our AC and refrigerator – were operating normally,” James said. “When I checked the system on Thursday morning, the power was still out and the battery was at 76%. If we had been home, we would have been comfortable.”

James notes that, as the weather following the storm was sunny, the solar panels worked their magic and the batteries were back at 100% charge by noon on Thursday.

“I am confident that, even if the power outage had been longer, we would have been fine,” James affirms. “The bottom line is that I think we could have gone a week, easily.”

The couple says they have spoken with their neighbors about the benefits of solar power.

“I’ve had conversations with all of our neighbors,” affirms James. “Their response is, ‘When there’s a hurricane coming, we’re coming over to your house!’”

“We’ve offered refrigerator space or a place to come if their power goes out,” adds Barbara graciously.

The Renos have gone all-in on the power of batteries. The have driven on electricity for eight years and they love their Tesla Model S. James, who does some power washing to help clean the houses and concrete of his neighbors, even converted from his old gas pressure washer to an electric one.

A former electrical engineer who retired after 40 years with Xerox, James notes that he understands the workings of the technology and really enjoys staying up on his system’s capabilities and data.

“The Tesla system, with the amount of data and tracking, it’s very handy,” James says. “With the Tesla app – which is the same for our car and Powerwall system – I can download data, see how the system is performing, and adjust power usage remotely.”

Since installing their solar + storage system, the Renos have paid a minimal monthly amount – last year it was around $22 per month – to FPL to be connected to the grid and for surge protection through their meter. With the recent FPL rate increase (“Because they can,” says James wryly), their bill is now around $40/month.

The Renos are extremely pleased with their investment in solar power. “I feel really good – I’m powering my driving AND my house; basically, ALL of my energy is coming from the sun!” James says. “Why would you live in Florida and NOT have solar power?”

The Renos’ solar energy system:
33 290-watt Hyundai solar panels
2 Tesla Powerwall home batteries
Inverter: SolarEdge 7600
Total system capacity: 26 kWh


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