solar in yolo county

Solar Lease, R.I.P.

David Crane, former president & CEO of NRG Energy, is one of the solar industry's most prophetic and emphatic pundits. When he speaks, the industry (and analysts and investors) listen. Crane's latest opine in Tuesday's GreenBiz: TeslaCity: Will car company + solar company = shareholder happiness?

Worthy of a quick read, Crane lambasts national solar leasing companies (including SolarCity) for their fundamentally fragile business models, specifically their practice of "no money down solar leases." Quick anecdote:

But, most of all, SolarCity needed a quick phase-out of zero-money-down, long-term-lease financing, a funding arrangement which once was essential to the kickstarting of the entire industry, but has mutated into the crack cocaine of home solar companies that still depend upon it.


We receive calls -- probably two or three a day -- from either prospective solar homeowners who were propositioned a solar lease, or existing solar leaseholders (or their Realtors) who are trying to sell their home (with a leased solar system). Solar leases are sugary-sweet on the surface, but the hangover is brutal. 

I hope SolarCity survives -- we enjoy competing with them. Perhaps they'll figure out how to make money. But, leasing solar systems is a bad deal for homeowners, and potentially fatal for SolarCity and its leasing comrades (e.g., Sunrun, Sungevity, Vivint, et al). RIP, solar lease; Viva la vida, solar ownership!

EV+PV: My Leaf Hits 30,000 Miles

The odometer on my 2013 Nissan Leaf rolled past 30,000 miles this morning in-transit to our shop. Over the past 26 months, my affinity for the Leaf has wavered: Fun to drive, great for the environment, and (beyond) cheap to operate; major range and charging anxiety, less-than-cool design, safe as an aluminum can. For $200 a month (thanks to Hanlee's lease) with minimal operating costs, I can't complain.

We've opined about the PB&J beauty of EVs + PV: The ecological and economic benefits can't be beat. At 25 miles/gallon for a gas-fueled car, I have avoided purchasing 1,200 gallons of gasoline.

First, here are the GHG equivalents of 30,000 miles of electric driving (click here for a super-cool EPA GHG calculator):

- 10.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide

- 267 tree seedlings grown for 10 years

- 3.4 tons of waste sent to a landfill

A dent, but certainly meaningful (at least to me). Enter the economic side of the equation and the Leaf truly sparkles:

- Of the 30,000 miles, approximately half were charged for free (primarily at downtown Davis charging stations) and half at home.

- My cost of solar-generated electricity (produced on my roof) is ~ 7 cents per kWh.

- Every kWh of electricity fuels (hah!) four miles of electric vehicle transport.

- 15,000 charge-at-home miles divided by 4 = 3,750 kWh

- 3,750 kWh @ $0.07/kWh = $262.50

Pretty cool and, importantly, not unique to my situation: Two-plus years of heavy driving at a cost (sans the lease payments) of $262.50 with nary a naughty emission. Electric vehicles powered by solar-generated electricity can't be beat.

Solar solicitations

Dad, this is hilarious, my 16-year-old son chuckled. Check out this voicemail I got today on my iPhone: 

If you're a homeowner you should take advantage of this program. Your new solar panels will cut your electric bill in half. So, my job is just to inform you about the program and see if you meet the qualification. Okay?

Click. Fourteen seconds. No name, no company name, just noise. Hilarious (to my son), but annoying too for anyone on the receiving end. 

Another good solar sales solicitation story: In a two-week period, I had three solar salespeople (from three different companies) knock on my door. Their canvas-the-neighborhood pitch went something like this: Hello, my name is Joe, did you know you have qualified to have solar installed for free and slash your PG&E bill immediately?

Really, I'd reply, it’s that easy?

Yes. All you have to do is sign here and we take care of everything.

In each of the three cases — for hugs and giggles — I would drill down regarding the type and quality of solar panels and inverters, the term and strength of their installation warranty, the cost per watt, and whether I could own/purchase the system. Blanks stares/no responses to each question. Amazing.

But here’s where the chortling kicked in to full gear: I asked each salesperson to step out toward the street to take a look at the roof (of my one-story home). Clearly visible from Willowbank Road are two arrays of solar panels. We would then turn the corner and walk down Almond to view three solar arrays on our backyard-facing roof.

Oh. I didn’t know (read: take a peek at my roof).

And, the kicker: All three asked me if I was interested in adding more panels to my system. Kudos for their gumption.

Not that we (Repower) are nobel, but we do not spend a dime on sales/marketing/advertising. No cold calls, door knocks, direct mail, or radio advertisements. Instead, we pass the savings along to friends and neighbors in Yolo County.