Why solar, why now? Homeowners speak out


At times it feels like we are solar psychologists. To effectively help property owners evaluate solar, we ask a lot of questions and — importantly — try out best to listen … two ears, one mouth. 

Our initial consultation with property owners generally begins with a two questions: Why solar? Why now? The sentiment of property owners falls into two camps: Pragmatic/economic, and/or idealistic/environmental.

Over the past month, we have had several dozen conversations with property owners. Here’s a sampling of contemporary reactions to the two Why? questions, shared in no particular order (with a heavy dose of PG&E sentiments):

- I’ve been putting it off; now seems like the right time to go solar.

- I am installing a new roof. Installing solar at the same time seems sensible. (This is common … we are currently orchestrating more than 10 re-roof + solar installations.)

- I looked at solar a while back and it didn’t pencil. Now that the cost of panels has dropped and PG&E’s rates have gone up, I want to learn if it’s feasible.

- PG&E’s rates are going to continue to go up, particularly with their bankruptcy and accrued liabilities for the fires.

- I want to do my part and reduce my carbon footprint.

- I am sick of PG&E and do not trust them.

- I just got an electric vehicle (or, plan to do so soon); now seems like the right time.

- The tax credit is going down at the end of the year (from 30% to 26%) … I do not want to lose out.

- I believe solar is the right way to go from an ecological perspective … we need to produce more clean energy/solar power.

- I just bought my house and it doesn’t have solar.

- I want to improve the value of my home.

- I am installing an electric heat pump, plan to go all-electric powered by solar.

- I believe solar is the right thing to do over the long run, economically and environmentally.

- My bills are really high; I’m tired of paying PG&E.

- PG&E’s problems are only getting worse. With solar, I can lock in my cost of electricity.

- I just retired and will use more electricity in the future.

- Solar is socially responsible, but I’m not sure if it’s financially reasonable.

- I have done everything I can to improve the energy efficiency of my home. Now, it’s time to consider solar.

Our opinions:

- Solar does not make sense for everyone.

- If you intend to own your home for more than five years, solar is worthy of consideration.

- There is no urgency to go solar; do not buy the, “you’ve gotta go solar by this date for this reason.”

- PG&E’s rates will continue to inflate; by what amount and when, nobody knows.

- Solar is the simplest and most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint and mitigate against future PG&E rate increases.

We are happy to engage in a conversation and help you contemplate solar. Feel free to stop by our workspace or contact us today to schedule your no-cost evaluation.

SAS: Solar Acronym Soup

All industries are plagued with too many acronyms; the solar industry could top the charts, cluttering myriad technical, utility and financial acronyms into confusing babble-babble. Here are but a few solar sugar plums, from the basic to the sublime:

- BoS: Balance of System (the soft costs — aside from equipment and installation labor — that complete the cost of your solar system).

- CCA/CCE: Community Choice Aggregation/Community Choice Energy (an alternative form of cleaner energy supply … coming to Yolo County in 2017!).

- CPUC: California Public Utilities Commission (the governing/regulatory body that oversees PG&E and other investor-owned utilities in California; aka, friends of solar and consumer choice).

- eV: Electric Vehicle (aka, peanut butter to solar’s jelly).

- GHG: Greenhouse Gas (a [horrible] gas in the atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range).

- IRR: Internal Rate of Return (the interest rate at which the net present value of all the cash flows [both positive and negative] from your solar investment equal zero).

- ITC: Investment Tax Credit (the 30%, one-time federal tax credit you receive when you own your solar system).

- kW: Kilowatt (1,000 watts of energy).

- kWh: Kilowatt Hour (a measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of 1,000 watts for 1 hour).

- NEM: Net-Energy Metering (the program/mechanism by which solar system owners are credited for the electricity they generate).

- PTO: Permission to Operate (notification from your utility that your solar system is connected to the grid, thus commencing monetary credits).

- PPA: Power Purchase Agreement (an agreement to purchase electricity generated by a solar system [on your roof] that is owned by a third-party, tax equity fund … aka, a bad deal for homeowners vis-a-vis solar ownership).

- PV: Photovoltaic (PV cells in your solar panels are specialized semiconductor diodes that convert visible light into direct current electricity).

- TOU: Time of Use (a utility rate schedule whereby you are credited [for solar] and debited [for electricity use] based on the time of generation/use).


And, finally:

- PG&E: Our favorite utility (though they fight solar at every juncture :)