First, a quick story.

Over the past half-dozen years, friends and neighbors noticed the solar PV panels on our homes and posed a lot of questions. What does solar cost? Which panels should I choose? Who can I trust to install it? Can I finance it? How does it work with PG&E? Good, fundamental questions.

Then, two things occurred: The cost of solar plummeted, while PG&E’s rates escalated. By mid-2013, solar-generated electricity had an effective rate much less than any PG&E offered.  

Concurrently, several friends and neighbors either went solar or were considering solar. Great news, except — in most cases — they got a raw deal: Solar panels manufactured by insolvent companies; systems installed by not-so-great contractors with abysmal warranties; pricing that was far too high; and bad information about system ownership (i.e., people were signing up for power purchase agreements or leases). No bueno.

So, in 2013 we set out to do better. We committed to make solar simple, dependable and affordable for fellow Yolo County homeowners. We created Repower.

First, we began by identifying dependable equipment, manufactured by companies with outstanding balance sheets (and thus well able to back up their warranties).

Then we engaged six qualified solar contractors to bid on installing 100 solar systems in Yolo County. Bids in hand, we performed deep due diligence on the contractors, and selected a company that — by a longshot — had the highest quality of work.

Next, we helped create multiple financing programs, including PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) and a solar loan with Yolo Federal Credit Union.

Finally, we eliminated sales, marketing and advertising expenses, and streamlined the "does-solar-work-for-me?" evaluation process for homeowners.

The result: Yolo County homeowners are saving $3,000-$10,000 when they go solar, with top-of-the-line equipment installed by one of the industry’s best contractors. They get a good deal on their solar systems. Their PG&E bills shrink to practically nothing. And, the environment benefits.

And another cool thing happened. As our friends and neighbors repowered their homes with solar, we started supporting local nonprofit organizations. In 2014 — on behalf of homeowners who went solar — we donated more than $12,000 to local causes.

Solar gets us up in the morning, but it’s a means to an end. The opportunity to build our community and make Yolo County a better place are what keep us going and fuel our ambition. If we can grow a socially and environmentally responsible business that helps our friends and neighbors save money and harvest their own clean energy, then we will have succeeded.