The Schempps take on clean energy

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How a local Minnesota family integrated renewable energy into their life.

The Schempps are a middle-class family of four, living in their cozy West Saint Paul home. Matthew and Stephanie, an online high school English teacher and an editor, respectively, bought their 1,600-foot bungalow two years ago. The couple lives with their children, Sebastian and Malcolm, plus their two cats, Taco and Josie. They love their tight-knit community nestled near a local coffee shop and the green Cherokee Park of the West Side.

Excited about helping the environment, the Schempps decided to embrace clean energy.

First came the electric car

After the family’s beloved sedan sputtered out, the Schemmps turned their eye to a used electric vehicle.  They set a modest budget of under $10,000 and started their hunt, connecting with local dealerships who sold used electric cars. The family purchased their Nissan Leaf on a salvaged title, since the car had quite a bit of hail damage. But for them, the decision wasn’t about aesthetics—instead, they were looking to cut their fuel consumption and make a smart choice for the environment. “We just feel better about it!” says Stephanie.

While driving electric can take a little more planning, they run errands around town easily. The family doesn’t have a special, fast charger system and simply uses a normal outlet to repower their Leaf. The Schempps also own a traditional vehicle and switch off cars to make their schedules work. “We’ve only rescheduled one appointment because of a missed charge.”

Then came solar 

Matthew and Stephanie were so thrilled with their electric vehicle, they decided to go all-in with clean energy. Matthew had been keeping a close eye on the government subsidies available to install solar. After careful calculations, the couple decided to take the leap— the decision was a win for the planet and their pocketbook. 

A Metro-area company helped finance and install their rooftop panels. The process was “pretty pain-free,” and the company patiently answered the “five million questions I had!” remarks Stephanie. The family makes monthly payments on their solar panels via a low-interest loan. “People who are average like us—living in a small home in an urban community—need access to incentives.” 

The Schempps are thrilled they’re now able to power their home and car with local, homegrown energy.

The family relies on their solar panels to generate most of their electricity needs per month—including the nightly charging of their used Leaf, a near-daily load of laundry, and Matthew’s electronic needs as an online teacher working from home. Sebastian and Malcolm also love playing video games—and solar energy keeps up with them. On a sunny day, the Schempp’s garage and home rooftop panels fully meet their electricity demand and then some. “I’m constantly checking the app to see how much we’re generating and consuming,” says Stephanie, “it’s so nice to have that kind of control!”

Schools and buildings and businesses, oh my! 

Plus, the Schempps know all their clean energy adoption is just good for the environment. “I was really happy we had made this decision,” says Stephanie. “If everyone was able to cut their energy in half, that would make a big difference,” she says.

Sebastian and Malcolm’s environmental magnet school also just recently installed solar panels, so the boys now get 100 percent of their energy needs met from the sun. The family is hoping more schools and buildings make the move to solar. “It’s just the right choice.”

Fresh Energy will continue to support families like the Schempps by advancing smart and forward-thinking policies that speed Minnesota’s transition to a clean energy economy. Learn more how you can participate on our Take Action page.