We’re spending more time at home, which means many of us are rolling up our sleeves on long-delayed home improvement projects – finally building that backyard deck to enjoy summer barbecues, planting a garden where a lawn once was, or adding solar panels to the roof. When I talk with friends about going solar, our conversations often start with comments like “we don’t use enough electricity to go solar” or “we can’t afford it,” but as they learn more about the benefits – and cost savings – these conversations evolve to “we didn’t realize our monthly payments would be less than our old utility bill” or “if we switch to an electric vehicle, the ROI for going solar looks fantastic!”
Solar is more accessible than ever before
Running CEC’s Solarize program over the past few years, I’ve watched solar become more and more accessible, with financing options that make sense for the average homeowner. Although it is a big investment, if you finance a solar system over seven years, monthly payments are oftentimes lower than what you would pay for electricity. I want my friends and other people in my community to make wise environmental choices when it comes to their energy consumption, but I also care about the economics of the recommendations that I make. When we save money on our electricity bills (and employ local solar contractors) we have more resources to invest in our communities, or to weather the financial impacts of a pandemic.
Build climate resilience at home
As fire season approaches, I think of the many homeowners who lost power during the public safety power shutoffs late last year and the impacts that power loss can have on our lives. Rolling grid outages are a new normal that we now need to contend with as a result of climate change. Fortunately, solar paired energy storage options (batteries) can provide homeowners continuous power, even when the grid is down. This automated energy supply allows homeowners to dip into stored energy once the sun sets — as opposed to tapping into the grid — and build climate resilience at home.
CEC’s Solarize program is here to help
It’s exciting to know that CEC has helped over 800 homeowners across the Central Coast add solar to their roofs since 2009. Each roof we help outfit with solar panels is one more win for the environment. Shifting to “distributed” renewable sources of energy, like rooftop solar, is crucial for meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals, maintaining local economic benefits, and decreasing the environmental impacts of our energy consumption. By building energy sources in our cities, we reduce our reliance on both fossil fuel based electricity sources and utility-scale renewable energy installations, which have their own ecological impacts.
Homeowners aren’t the only ones who can benefit from solar — CEC’s Solarize Nonprofit program offers solar installations with no upfront costs and reasonable energy rates, translating to hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings for nonprofits that are serving our community. Last year, I had the opportunity to help the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center add solar panels to their facility. We worked together with our funding partner Asteri Solar and installation partner Sun Pacific Solar Electric, Inc. to install a new 52-kilowatt solar electric system, projected to save the Sea Center more than $300,000 on future electricity bills over the life of the panels. Michael Chiacos, CEC’s Director of Climate and Energy programs, has told me numerous times that he feels happy every time he arrives home and sees solar panels on his roof. I didn’t quite understand his “solar joy” until we had completed the Sea Center project. Now, when I ride my bike past the wharf, it’s not just the beautiful ocean that makes me smile, but the Sea Center’s solar panels – a shining example of renewable energy and climate resilience.
Given the economic uncertainties that lie ahead, there is no better time to harness the power of the sun to protect your pocketbook – and the environment. Let’s work together toward a future where 100% of the electricity that powers our homes, businesses, and cars is generated from clean, renewable, and local sources.
Ready to go solar now?
Homeowners can sign up today on the Solarize Santa Barbara website (open through October 31, 2020) or Solarize Ventura County website (open through December 9, 2020) – a CEC representative will follow up to discuss program options.
Nonprofits that own their own buildings are in long-term leases can sign up today on the Solarize Nonprofit website.
Want to learn more?
- Attend one of CEC’s free webinars or rewatch the recording of a past webinar on the Solarize Santa Barbara website or the Solarize Ventura County website. You can also download the presentations, review top questions and answers from each webinar and review transcripts.
- Read more about the program in our Solarize Santa Barbara press release and Solarize Ventura County press release.
- Read our Solar FAQs.
- Contact CEC’s Renewable Energy Program Senior Manager April Price with further questions at [email protected].
April Price is the Renewable Energy Program Senior Manager at CEC and focuses on transitioning the tri-county region to renewable energy sources and reduced energy consumption. She leads CEC’s Solarize program, which facilitates residential solar adoption. She also serves on the utility-funded local government partnership, South County Energy Efficiency Partnership (SCEEP), which is focused on energy efficiency in municipal facilities.