When Carol Vesecky moved from Palo Alto to Ojai in 2007 to farm two acres of fruit orchards with her daughter, she didn’t anticipate that she would be spending as much as $300 dollars a month on electricity. Pondering what to do, Carol — who has spent much of her life working in Russian-speaking countries on sustainable mini-farming strategies – was reminded of a design group she worked with in Siberia in the mid-1990’s. The researchers were developing plans for well-insulated, passive solar, off-grid dwellings powered as much as possible by solar panels.
Knowing that California has far more sunshine than Siberia, Carol began thinking of solar power as a viable solution for herself. “I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist, and alternative energy has always been an attractive option,” she says. “Although I had solar panels for hot water in Palo Alto, I realized it would be difficult to add solar photovoltaic panels there with large trees shading the rest of my roof. Also, the technology was so expensive back then.” Increased electrical usage in her new home, declines in the cost of panels and the 2012 Solarize Ojai Valley group discount program helped make solar a viable option for Carol. She heard about the Solarize program through the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, which partnered with CEC to offer Solarize Ojai Valley.
Despite the discounted Solarize price, Carol thought that going solar might be a challenge because the roof space on her property is shaded by large oak trees. A second challenge was that Carol’s limited tax liability prevented her from taking advantage of the federal tax credit – a significant financial incentive on the cost of a solar array. Fortunately, Carol was able to work with California Solar Electric, one of the vetted solar installers for Solarize Ojai Valley, to address both challenges.
California Solar Electric designed a 4.6 kilowatt, ground-mounted solar array that was placed on an un-shaded, south-facing plot of Carol’s property. The company also helped design a pre-paid solar lease to pay for her system. The leasing company was able to capture both the federal tax-credit and the state rebate, and then applied the savings from both government incentives into Carol’s pre-paid lease price. Carol was thus able to take advantage of the incentives and will enjoy 20 years of clean generation from the solar array.
Before going solar, Carol’s annual electric bills totaled nearly $2,764. Now through her pre-paid solar lease, Carol will see her annual electric bill fall to just $1,044 dollars. Adjusting for predicted increases in utility rates, Carol’s switch to solar will save her $56,873 over 20 years.
After her experience going solar Carol extols the benefits of Solarize Ojai Valley, “Because CEC and Ojai Valley Green Coalition vetted the installer I could have total confidence in who I was working with and know I was getting a great price.” She continues, “I wholeheartedly recommend the program. Everyone from the Solarize program and California Solar Electric was easy to work with, knowledgeable and very responsive. They listened to my concerns and helped me find the ideal solar solution!”
System Size: 4.6 kW DC
Type of System: 20 Sunpower 230 Watt NE modules and SunPower SPR-4000M Inverter
Installer: California Solar Electric
Estimated solar production / year: 6,457 kWh
Cost of pre-pay lease: $18,091
Annual electric bill savings (year 1): $1720
Total electric bill savings over 20-year lease term: $56,873*
*Assumes 5% annual increase in utility rates, consistent with historic data