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Charged up about the rooftop revolution

Blog: 
Date: 
Monday, August 12, 2013
Author: 
Lisa Ferguson

Editor's note: What's it like to go solar? Lisa Ferguson of San Pedro details her experience with the Sierra Club's Sungevity program -- and how much she likes making her own power. And she has some advice: Try it.

Anyone, Sierra Club member or not, who asks for a quote from Sungevity through the Solar Homes website will get the same good deal. In September, homeowners receive $750 if they go solar and the Sierra Club receives $1,000. So tell your friends and neighbors now!

In recent years, I had been considering converting to solar panels, but each time I started investigating the possibilities it seemed complicated and expensive, even with the tax rebates. Not knowing anyone with a solar home, I didn't even have a recommendation as a base line for comparisons. Then in the late fall of 2012, I got an e-mail from the Sierra Club announcing their endorsement of Sungevity. I trusted the Sierra Club as a steward of nature and the environment so I read further to see in what way the club was working with this solar energy company. It turns out Sungevity was offering this amazing incentive program which included a $750 donation to the Sierra Club.

I filled out an easy online form and a few days later I got a call from Stephen at Sungevity. He was very personable and knowledgeable, and it made for a much easier decision when I found out a home inspection was not required to put together a proposal. Sungevity could engineer the project from satellite photographs of my home. The only task on my part was getting copies of my last three Department of Water and Power bills, scanning them and sending them back to Stephen at Sungevity. With that, they were able to design the proper sized system for my home and energy use.

Payment options

Once the system for my home was designed, I was presented with a variety of options: Purchase the system out right, purchase on a payment plan, lease the system for 20 years with a few different payment plan options, lease the system paying the lease in full up front. I considered owning because I am just not a leaser type person but in this case it seemed the most sensible and cost effective. All the maintenance and repair is the responsibility of Sungevity, and the lease is transferable if I ever sell my home. I may not get all the rebates of owning, but I also didn't have to put up a huge lump some and fill out a bunch of paperwork and track down those rebates. I didn't even have to pull any city permits; Sungevity took care of everything.

I have to admit I just kind of “went with it” because Sungevity made it so easy and they were endorsed by the Sierra Club. However, the more I found out about the company, and just my over all experience, the more pleased I became with my decision. I was told the project would probably be completed by June, 2013, but I got a call in March from Sungevity to schedule the installation. They worked around my schedule and had the system installed in two days. The crew was punctual, professional and courteous to me and my property. The only tiny delay was that the building inspector wanted a sign labeling something “DC” instead of “PHOTOVOLATAIC.” They had the label fabricated and posted two days later. I was also lucky because what was estimated to be a one month wait for DWP to come and install their meter turned out to only be a two-week wait. Once the DWP technician installed their meter they flipped the switch and I started making my own power.

Watch the sun create power

One of the cool things about Sungevity is that you can monitor the solar power you generate from your computer. They also monitor it to assure the system is working up to its full potential. As it turned out, my system wasn't synching up with my Wi-Fi so a technician came out right away to reboot the system and check the panel wiring. The technician they sent was great and I learned a few more things about Sungevity from him. 

No. 1: I had the latest technology on the market.
No. 2: Sungevity subcontracts other companies for installations so as not to drive existing local solar companies out of the market, and to pass the savings of not setting up brick and mortar shops everywhere onto their customers.
No. 3: Sungevity has extremely high standards and trains their subcontracted technicians to meet these standards. The technician said he was recently sent to Oakland for a weekend training seminar. He said he learned a lot of technical stuff, had a great time, and really, really liked Sungevity's owners.  Even Sungevity's subcontracted technicians sings its praises.

The ultimate carbon footprint offset

I recently finished reading, "Rooftop Revolution" by Danny Kennedy, and I feel really good about choosing a solar company whose owner has been a true advocate for the environment. He has worked on climate issues for more than two decades with Greenpeace, California Clean Energy Now, Project Underground, The Solar Foundation, and Solar Mosaic. I am proud to be a part of the Rooftop Revolution. As of June, I generated enough solar energy to offset the carbon footprint of 459 automobile miles and offset 401 pounts of carbon emissions. I think the projection for my 20 year lease is 180,000 automobile miles. I'm on my way.

A couple of weeks ago a man on a Sierra Club hike told me that someone had advised him that if his electric bill is only $30 to $50 a month he's not really saving much money by going solar. I went home and did the math and if his bill is only $30 a month (which is about what mine was) over the next 20 years he will pay $7,200 for electricity, but that is only if the cost of electricity stays at its current rate. With all the amazing incentives offered to me, I payed less than $5,000 for a solar panel system to operate on my rooftop for the next 20 years. As long as my consumption stays the same rising prices for electricity won't effect me. I think I'm ahead of the game financially, plus I'm doing something important for the environment: I'm creating clean energy.


Photo credit: Lisa Ferguson

3 comments

Great article!

wonderful article... especially for a home owner!

Lisa:

I am in the process of getting a solar system. I am debating whether I should buy or lease. Could you share what your cost of the system? Is there a finance option?
Thanks for sharing.

Brenda

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