Behind every great installation, there's a good story -- meet Kate Flax. Kate has turned her home into a working model of sustainability having installed a solar electric system, solar hot water and a significant water harvesting system, which includes two 620 gallon tanks and a 10,000 gallon underground concrete cistern, which feeds into her home’s water supply.

Kate is a busy and very special person, spending her time caring for her mother. For Kate, these renewable energy systems are part of her 10-year financial plan.  “While I knew it was the right thing to do environmentally, it had to work financially for me,” said Kate.

Being environmentally as well as financially minded comes from Kate's childhood. Having spent her childhood  without much money, living in a rented farm house, Kate remembers learning the basics of conservation at a young age -- shutting off the lights and the water when not in use, to save money. She smiles and refers to it as "poverty induced conservation."

For Kate, the process of making her home more sustainable started small. When she moved into her west Tucson home, after leaving the east coast, the first thing she did was plant a container garden, so that her mother could sit in the garden and watch the plants grow.  After the garden’s success, Kate decided to install gutters on one side of her house in order to harvest the rainwater that would pour off of her roof during Tucson’s monsoon storms. It wasn’t long after that, Kate thought, “Why am I doing this half-way? If I’m going to do this, for long term reasons, I want to do it all the way."

Kate wanted to generate clean electricity as well as reduce her daily living expenses to free up cash for things other than utility bills. “I’m looking at 10 years. Then, I’ll be completely self-sustaining. Until then, I’ll be enjoying lower bills.  While taking care of my mother, I need to be living my life to the fullest, not worrying about bills,” adds Kate.

"Most people would invest in stocks and bonds, but to me these systems are real, this is it. This is part of my plan; I’m investing in my future."  Her investment is likely to see an income and savings of over $650 a year, tax free, for 25 years, and this number will continue to increase as utility rates rise.

For every supplemental kilowatt hour that Kate’s solar electric system generates, Tucson Electric Power, will give her credit toward her next months utility bill.  Kate’s solar electric system is made up of sixteen, 230 Watt SunPower solar panels, which are expected to generate, 6408 kilowatt hours annually.