Don and Pat say “yes!” to clean energy

How a local Minnesota couple made their home a renewable energy powerhouse.

As a kid, Donald Vasatka read a lot of science fiction. And yet even he never dreamed the sun would one day power his car.

Don and his wife Pat have always taken environmental stewardship seriously.  They compost, generate very little waste, love biking, and have integrated Minnesota-friendly native landscaping into their yard. But looking to make some more impactful changes in their life, they turned their eyes to clean energy.

Going electric at home

The Vasatkas bought their family home nearly 40 years ago in a quiet, then-undeveloped area of Eagan. After their kids flew the coop, Pat and Don got serious about making their home and transportation choices cleaner. 

“We’re not early adopters of technology, but we were really curious about hybrid cars.” After purchasing a 2008 Prius and loving its ease and environmental impact, the couple later went on to buy a pre-owned electric Nissan Leaf four years later. “We love the time-of-use rates our utility company provides… it’s dirt-cheap!” The couple charges their Leaf at night and receives a special discounted rate in return. 

Pat and Don also made sure the rest of their home was electric, too: their clothes dryer, stove, and even lawn mower all run on electricity. “It’s so much quieter and emits no pollution. Health-wise it’s a win too since I’m no longer breathing in those toxic fumes,” says Don.

Turning attention to solar

After going on several solar home tours and doing their research, the Vasatkas installed their 30 solar panels five years ago in two separate phases.  During the installation, they took advantage of a necessary roof replacement to also add additional insulation to their attic. “For us, the choice was really about the environment… we wanted to decrease pollution and have a positive impact.”

Now the couple generates over 7,500 killowatt hours of energy each year, enough to power their entire home and their electric vehicle. They’ve even convinced two of their children to install solar— dad’s become a real expert in helping them out. “It really has been an evolution,” he says. “We’re so happy we did it.”

Fresh Energy will continue to support families like the Vasatkas by advancing smart and forward-thinking policies like time-of-use rates and solar incentives that speed Minnesota’s transition to a clean energy economy. Learn more how you can participate via our Take Action page. 

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