Of Sun and Credit

We wanted to go solar right when we moved in, but we held off, because something told me we might need our nest egg for things even more indispensable than solar panels. And I was right. At some point, our 2002 Silverado was simply falling apart. Oh, the engine was great. Started up like it was new. But everything else was rusting around it. When the shop we took it to was honest and kind enough to tell us they could fix it but we’d be wiser spending our money toward a new truck, we decided to do just that.

Which left us with two options for solar, since that took our nest egg down below the point where we could buy a solar system outright: do without or use financing.

Well, we don’t do credit. It’s Bad Medicine. It’s Bad Karma. It’s unskillful action. And we’ve believed that for a long time, which meant we were both pretty sure we had “no credit” on our credit reports. But early in 2022, we decided we wanted to start becoming energy independent because the energy utility in our area scalps its customers via fees. So we took a deep breath and went to a local credit union to apply for their solar loan.

And we were approved.

We were COMPLETELY expecting a “no.” And we would have simply gone home without disappointment. It was just a “we had to try” thing. But we were fully and unconditionally approved. So we told the solar installer, who had drawn up a solar plan for us, and proceeded to take the next steps, starting with giving the solar installer $500 out of our own pockets to get us on their schedule. I also paid over $700 to the energy utility to upgrade the transformer to handle net metering.

Fast forward four months, when the solar installer was ready to take the next step, because they were able to acquire the equipment to get started. We had to reapply for the loan, because a loan approval is only valid for 60 days, but we were told that the result should be the same if nothing had changed. Since we had not changed anything, we completely expected the loan to be approved.

It. Was. Not.

When we found out why, we were aghast at how stupid and broken the credit system is – and about how stupid a local credit union could be, just as much as a large corporate bank. Of course, we knew that already, but this time we knew it more viscerally. Jen had finally sold her old townhouse in Maryland at the end of last year, and now that it was no longer hers, there were no other “open accounts” on either of our credit reports, because, as I’ve said, we don’t play that.

But that didn’t change our anger and disappointment. Nothing about US had changed. This credit union irresponsibly pulled the rug out from under us without thinking “we told them yes, so they probably went ahead and put some effort and money into getting things ready.” I mean, unless they’re all pre-teens, everyone should know this is how things go. In addition, they tried to offer us a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Are they serious? We own our farm free and clear. Why in all the stupid heck would we put a mortgage on it over something a fraction of its value? I even told them this. I was direct, but civil. They didn’t respond.

So we are back to not planning a traditional solar install. At this point, our only recourse is to see how much we’d get from logging contracts to fund a solar installation. And also, we’re very firmly back to holding our ground on not using credit. We weren’t upset so much about the “no” as we were upset about the “yes” followed by the “no.” I very definitely went on Yelp and described this experience and gave the credit union a one-star review. It’s unconscionable to treat people this way, especially when those people didn’t do anything to merit that treatment.

At least I’m getting the $700 back from the energy utility, since the transformer upgrade is no longer needed at this point.

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