why go solar

Why solar, why now? Homeowners speak out

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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.

I am going solar. Now.

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We have the fortune of exploring solar with dozens of homeowners each month. No two conversations are the same, but common themes prevail. We normally commence with a simple question: Why solar, why now (in terms of the homeowner’s interest)?

Solar is not a panacea and it does not make sense for all homeowners. Further, there is no single, silver bullet that prompts people to pull the trigger; here are a selection of “why solar, why now” anecdotes from homeowners:

1. PG&E: Opinions sway from virtual venom to distrust to steady rate inflation to I’m sick of paying PG&E so much every month. As you may have noticed, PG&E raised residential electricity rates ~42% over the past three years, and there’s more to come …

2. Climate change: Everyone wants to do their part, and solar is a the most impactful measure a homeowner can employ to reduce their carbon footprint. Furthermore, our state is burning (no-duh) and homeowners acknowledge the latent liabilities PG&E is accruing for the Santa Rosa, Redding and other fires; there’s a general belief (we agree) that ratepayers will bear financial responsibility for PG&E’s liabilities. Hence, going solar insulates you from future rate increases.

3. Donald Tariff Trump: Regardless of your political stripes, nobody likes to pay more for something. President Trump’s first two tariffs were applied to washing machines and solar panels. (Washing machines?) Fortunately, the quantity of solar panels imported into the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2017 increased 1900% (versus Q4-2016); the solar industry has been working through a surplus of stockpiled, pre-tariff solar panels. However, supply is dwindling — prices have most likely bottomed — and the solar industry foresees tariffs in the next few months.

4. Donald Tax Credit Trump: There’s much concern among homeowners that the POTUS will eliminate the 30% federal tax credit (for solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy). For now, the tax credit is galvanized into the tax code, at the full 30%, through the end of 2019. We believe it is unlikely Congress (and then Trump) will abort the credit; perhaps we’re being overly naive! The safe bet, of course, is to lock it in in 2018.

5. Investment accounts: This one’s common … if I’m making less than 1% in my checking/money market account and I’m nervous about the stock market and my 401K, solar is an investment vehicle where I can confidently generate 12%+ annual returns. We agree, and the math is quite simple. 

6. I need a new roof: We are currently helping six homeowners who are replacing their roof and, in concert, installing solar panels. The timing is perfect to maximize and optimize warranties from the roof material and solar panel manufacturers (minimum of 25 years) and the roof and solar installation contractors (25 years). Importantly, we orchestrate the process (roof + solar) on behalf of homeowners.

7. Electric vehicle: This one’s a no-brainer, particularly if you plan to own your home for at least five years. Leveraging PG&E’s electric vehicle rate schedule (EV-A), our typical eV + solar homeowner only needs their solar system to generate ~80% of the electricity they use to offset 100% of their electricity costs. (Simple math: Your amortized cost to generate solar electricity is in the 8 cents per kWh range, and you will garner ~4 miles of charger per kWh … so, your cost to drive is ~2 cents per mile.)

Are we missing any obvious motivations (to go solar)? If so, please advise, or feel free to contact us if you’d like to amplify any (or all) of the above.

Thinking about going solar? Five key considerations

There’s a lot of sunshine being monetized by our community. In Davis alone, one in four single family residences have solar PV systems (versus approximately 5% in PG&E territory). Such rapid adoption is driven by four factors: PG&E’s ever-escalating electricity rates, a sharp decline in the cost of solar systems, the 30% federal tax credit, and (increasingly) grand concerns about our climate and planet.

The formative stage of the Repower program involved extensive research. We assessed the quality, reliability and pricing of solar equipment; the efficacy of solar installation contractors; the pricing (through a group purchase program) of solar; the most viable financing options; and, the most systematic installation methodology. Since pulling the pieces together and enabling the Repower program, we have had the fortune of helping more homeowners in our community invest in solar than any other solar provider.

If you are pondering going solar, here are five key considerations:

1. How long do you intend to reside in your home? If your horizon is less than five years, think twice; if more than five (and given you have a de facto agreement with PG&E to purchase electricity), dig deep.

2. What is the condition (and remaining life) of your roof? Solar systems have a 25-year production warranty. Though it is possible (and common) to replace a roof with an existing solar system, if your roof’s remaining life is less than 10 years, you should consider replacing all or part (i.e., the portion under the solar panels) of your roof.

3. What are the installation contractor’s qualifications? Thereby, it’s critical to speak with local homeowners who have worked with the contractor. Furthermore, you should seek a 10-year workmanship warranty and ensure the installation contractor is financially solvent. Finally, the contractor’s experience with your type of roof is paramount.

4. Who manufacturers the solar panels and inverter(s)? The assessment herein is twofold: What is the efficacy and reliability of the products, and what is the financial solvency (i.e., strength of balance sheet) of the manufacturer, and thus the validity of their performance warranty. Bloomberg qualifies a dozen or so solar panel manufacturers as “Tier 1” or “investment grade” … make sure you’re purchasing a product from this class.

5. Who will own the system and/or how will you pay for it? Frankly, leasing a solar system — whereby your solar panels are owned by a third-party, tax equity fund — is a raw deal for homeowners. You should own your system. Many homeowners employ a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or credit union financing (Yolo Federal Credit Union) to finance their solar system. (Contact us if you would like to learn more about Property Assessed Clean Energy [PACE] financing … we helped developed the first PACE programs in Sacramento and Yolo counties.)

 

At the end of the day, you'd like to know the likelihood your solar system will meet or exceed its energy forecast. Most solar companies use the same forecasting tools. It's the assumptions that feed these models that vary. You should feel confident the forecast presented is reasonable and not some pie-in-the-sky result. Hence, ask solar companies the proportion of systems installed that meet or exceed the originally forecast energy generation. (You should also ask the number of systems monitored to ensure it's a meaningful proportion.)

We do not have all the answers — there is no surefire, perfect solar solution — but we do have strong opinions and extensive experience in our community. Nobody wants to get a bad deal or make a short-sighted decision; filtering through the noise of pesky solar solicitations can be migraine-inducing. To wit, feel free to contact us if you need a hand.

Davis Enterprise: Why don’t more homeowners go solar?

Belated thanks to the Enterprise for sharing, in Sunday's election-packed edition, our perspective r.e. why (and why not) homeowners go solar. You can read the full article here ... below's a synopsis:

Solar energy is booming in our community. More than 20 percent of single-family residences in Davis have solar electric systems churning out clean and inexpensive electricity atop their rooftops.

The confluence of ever-inflating PG&E rates, significant reductions in the cost of solar panels and solar net-metering (whereby solar homeowners are credited at the full retail price for their clean energy) has swelled solar adoption in Davis.

Going solar always has been an idealistic decision — it’s the right thing to do — and now it’s a pragmatic, sage investment decision, too.

However, solar is not a panacea; it does not make sense for everyone. At RepowerYolo, our solar assessment begins with a qualitative and quantitative homeowner interview. One of the first things we do is try to talk homeowners out of going solar. 

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But, the No. 1 reason homeowners do not go solar is less obvious: They do not have to. Solar is a choice; nobody has to do it. Paying your PG&E bill is not a choice; you do it or it’s lights out.

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Candid pessimism to the side, solar is booming in our community for one primary reason: economics. The average cost of PG&E electricity for homes in Davis we have assessed is 24 cents per kilowatt hour. The average amortized cost of solar-generated electricity for Repower homeowners is 9 cents per kilowatt hour. Net-net, if a homeowner in our community intends to live in his house for at least five years, solar pencils out.

You do not have to pay PG&E when you can profit from the sun.