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CEC is committed to creating a more resilient and just region in the face of climate change. Through our work with the Central Coast Climate Justice Network and elsewhere, our vision includes an end to racial injustices and their resulting environmental inequities.

Modern Day Money Trees

Ten years ago, Stephen had realized that he could either continue to pay his power company for increasingly expensive electricity, or he could invest in solar. Once he recouped his initial outlay on the investment, he reasoned, he could bask in free electricity for the duration of the panels’ life — between 30 and 40 years.
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The Kellys Are Driving on Sunshine Thanks to Solarize Santa Ynez Valley

Rick Kelly and his family are self-described “energy hawks,” always looking for ways to improve the energy efficiency of their home. After switching all their lighting to LED bulbs, Rick -- a business manager at UCSB -- was looking for more. Intrigued by solar electricity, he attended a homeowner workshop about Solarize Santa Ynez hosted by CEC and the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance. At the workshop, another homeowner brought up the topic of combining home solar and electric vehicles (EVs), and it spurred Rick to do his own research.
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A Conservative Embraces Driving on Sunshine

Aaron is not your typical “go green” kind of guy. He thinks that the country’s solar industry has been too heavily subsidized. And don’t get him started on climate change. None of that, however, stopped Aaron from installing solar panels on his home or purchasing a plug-in hybrid vehicle. Come again?
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The Electric Vehicle Ripple Effect

Nearly everyone who works at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital knows that if you’ve got questions about solar panels or electric vehicles, Dr. Timothy Rodgers probably has the answers. During the lunch hour, you can sometimes spot Timothy, a specialist in Internal Medicine, in the hospital’s cafeteria — and a couple times a week, he’s chatting with someone curious about green technologies.

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Most popular personal stories of 2013

Santa Barbarans are leading the way in the clean energy movement. We've met locals who are installing solar panels on their homes and helping others go solar. We've heard from people who are driving electric vehicles and powering them with energy from the sun or commuting to work by bike or bimodally. Read our most popular personal stories from 2013 for a dose of inspiration going into the new year.

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David W. maximizes the range of his electric vehicle

I purchased my Nissan Leaf in March 2011. I couldn’t resist the appeal of zero emissions, cool styling, fun driving, green status, well-engineered and built car, and a 100 mile range. I must say it has delivered on all of these promises, with the exception of the range.  For me, range has been a bit problematic because I live in Santa Barbara, and I have an office in Hollywood. My commute is 92 miles door-to-door. I thought, I’d have 100 miles of range, so hey, no problem.

Real life experience

Well, here’s my real life experience over the last year or so. Fortunately, I don’t make that commute every day, only once a week. I have a loft in L.A. so I stay for a few days, mid-week, and drive back to S.B. for 4-day weekends. Bottom line -- I have made the 92 mile commute on a number of occasions, but on many of the trips I’ve had to avail myself of one of the four Nissan dealers along my route for a free, level 2 charge, stopping anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Adding an hour, to an hour-and-half commute is not a lot of fun. (With a one hour charge, I can pick up about 12 miles of additional range).


I’ve learned about range anxiety first hand. It sits right under one’s sternum, something that pilots and race car drivers know all too well. I’ve also learned there are a number of factors that affect the range I am able to get on each trip such as:

  • Driving mode – eco mode or regular
  • Driving style – lead foot, or with an egg between your foot and the accelerator
  • Terrain – along my route I climb the 800ft Conejo Grade
  • Temperature – the Leaf cools it’s works, but no heating
  • Load – weight of passengers and cargo
  • Accessories – heat, AC and lights
  • Solar charger on the rear wing
  • Altitude – thinner air in certain locations
  • State of charge
  • Speed

Tactics to extend range

I’ve come to learn that the largest factor is aerodynamics. Even though the Leaf is nicely shaped to cut through the wind, and even deflect it around the side view mirrors with its bubble-lensed headlights, pushing all that air out of our way takes lots of energy. So the faster we go, the harder we have to push against all that air. (Race car drivers know that at top speeds it takes an enormous increase in horsepower to gain just a few more MPH.)

I’ve come to learn this in two ways. I can make my 92 mile commute without having to stop for a charge if I draft a big rig truck down the coast.  I let the trucker push the air out of my way with his fossil fuel. I don’t recommend this practice as it’s just as nerve racking as the range anxiety I’m trying to overcome. It’s also dangerous and you’re likely to pick up your share of rock chips.

The second way, is on the days I’ve hit stop-and-go traffic along the 101, I can make the 92 miles, by poking along well under the speed limit. However, if the traffic is moving along at a clip, it’s also a bit dangerous to try to go 50 mph with traffic zipping by you at 70.

Since I am trying to make my commute without stopping, I’ve also over inflated my tires by four or five pounds, tinted the windows so I can leave the AC off and added some GasPods along the rear roofline. I don’t know if they help, buy hey, any bit helps and I only need just a few more miles.

DC Quick Charging Stations

With just one DC quick charger along my route I’d be set.  In the same time it takes one to pump a tank of gas, use the restroom and grab a beverage for the road, I can pick up enough range to make my commute comfortably. All I need is 10 minutes on a DC quick charger, and I’m home free. I hear there are charging station companies evaluating DC quick charging stations along my route. I can’t wait!

Hidden Dangers

On a side note…. there is a hidden danger of using the level 2 chargers.  I stopped at the Nissan dealer in Camarillo for an hour to gain some additional range.  I was feeling good about picking up 50 cents worth of free electricity courtesy of Nissan, until I realized I was walking back to my car from Frys Electronics having just spent $200!  A month or so later the same thing happened when I used the free charger in front of the Malibu Public Library and walked over to the Cross Creek Shopping Center and spent $150 on clothes.  This is something that is not mentioned in the owner’s manual. So beware. (However, I’m up to speed with my tech toys and I’m better dressed thanks to my Leaf’s need for more juice.)

See you on the 101!

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Film screening inspired Michel S. to buy a Leaf

Michel Saint-Sulpice is a gentle soul who takes his responsibility for the planet seriously, and always has. Growing up in France, his family was careful with resources, and he has carried forth that strong environmental ethic into his adult life as a Santa Barbara architect.

Michel aspires to be fossil fuel free by the end of 2012, and he’s well on his way. Solar panels provide his home with electricity, and he’s been driving a Toyota Prius since the second generation first hit the market. He completely removed his lawn to make room for a beautiful drought tolerant landscape. Greywater and collected rain water (with back-up well water) will soon irrigate a “food forest.” On the drawing board is a geothermal system that will heat the entire house (with cooling option), all his domestic water and his swimming pool year round. Since Michel produces all his electricity, his carbon footprint will be zero, and he will not be paying electric and gas bills any longer. He has taken these measures to express his deep appreciation for nature and beauty.

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Dan E. drives on sunshine instead of oil

Tucked away on a peaceful cul-de-sac that backs up to Elings Park, Dan Emmett's home wouldn't be thought of as an environmental statement at first glance. The solar paneled roof – barely visible except from the upper lawn in the back yard – might even go unnoticed. But Dan and others like him are starting a quiet revolution, built around the idea that solar electricity can power their homes, hot tubs, and even cars.

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