April Price, Community Environmental Council: All right, good afternoon and welcome. My name is April Price with the Community Environmental Council. And thank you for joining our webinar on residential, solar and battery storage.
We’ll have about an hour together and we have a lot to cover. So you can see in the agenda below, we’ll start off with mainly some information about solar. Then we’ll spend the latter half talking about batteries. And we will spend a good amount of time with our local solar installers who are joining us for this webinar as well.
All right, you may be fairly familiar with the Community Environmental Council. We are a local nonprofit organization that is focused on solutions to climate change. You can see at the bottom of your screen we have five initiatives that we are currently working on but I know we’re all here today to discuss going solar, so let’s just jump into it.
What brings you here?
I’m especially interested to know what brings you here today. So we’ll go ahead and launch a poll. And you can let me know whether you already have batteries or whether you already have solar or whether this is something new for you, and you’re thinking through these technologies for the first time. All right, great. Looks like we have about half of our participants here looking at solar and batteries for the first time. Welcome. Looks like about 16% of you are just considering adding batteries to your existing solar. Alright, thank you for that background. Alright, to get you excited here. Here’s a beautiful solar installation that was completed last year through the Solarize Santa Barbara program. You can see these folks look happy. I bring up happiness because my colleague here at the Community Environmental Council, Michael Chiacos, tells me whenever he bikes up or drives his EVF to his home, he looks at his shining solar panels, and he just feels happy. So there’s lots of reasons why people consider adding solar systems to their home and happiness is perfectly fine to start.
Benefits of Solar
I’m sure a lot of you are also interested in the environmental benefits of going solar. This is a great way to reduce your greenhouse gas consumption and your carbon footprint. It’s also a really valuable way to think about where your energy comes from. So even if you’re using solar energy that’s coming from a big install in the desert, there’s much less of an ecological impact of having solar energy if it’s right on the roof of your home. Another benefit of going solar is you’re going to be increasing the value of your home. There was a study done about five years ago by the Lawrence Berkeley Lab that shows across home markets in California, that homes with solar sold for about $15,000 more than comparable homes without solar. So you’re really looking to get your money back on your investment. Of course, once you add solar, you’re also looking to start saving money immediately on your electricity bill.
Examples of financial savings
Just to start off as an example of saving money here, I talked to someone in the community recently that had about $170 a month bill. They looked into going solar and you can see here that this is presented annually, but after solar, their monthly electricity bill would drop to about $30 a month, but it gets especially impressive when you look at 25 year savings. In this specific example, this customer is looking to save close to $70,000 over 25 years, beginning with a $20,000 investment, which dropped down to about 15,000 after the tax credit. I know I threw a lot of numbers at you, I’m going to walk through what this tax credit is and why it’s so important shortly. But just wanted to give you a quick example of how much money you can save by going solar.
Recent/upcoming rate changes
Alright, remember the first three here, but I also wanted to introduce the idea of hedging against raising electricity rates. You’ve probably been paying your electricity bill for a while and know that rates do go up over the years. And whether or not you go solar, I think it’s helpful to know that SCE will be changing the way that most of its customers are built. And so there’s a lot of words on the screen here, but just look at the yellow portion here. Most SCE customers will eventually be switched TOU or time of use rates. And that simply means that you will be charged for your electricity based on the time of day that you use it. And that has some implications for your solar decisions as well.
Time of Use pricing SCE: TOU 4-9
As a quick example of a common SCE tariff, or what billing structure, this one here is called SCE time of use 4-9. The idea here is that again, your electricity will have a different price depending on when you use it. I’m focusing on the top here, which is in the summer months, electricity is most expensive under this tariff between four and 9pm. And then during the rest of the day, it’s significantly cheaper. So I’ll come back to this as well. But just introducing the idea of time of use pricing for your electricity.
How solar works
All right, so we’re probably all used to riding our bikes or driving around our neighborhoods and seeing these beautiful solar panels on our neighbor’s homes. I think they’re beautiful. That’s probably the most obvious portion of the solar system that we’re all pretty familiar with. In addition to the solar panels on our roof, there’s another crucial component to the solar system, and that’s the inverter. The inverter is the component that changes the DC power from your solar system into the AC power that all of our appliances use in our homes. So to dive a little bit deeper into inverters here.
Traditionally, you would just have a string inverter. A string inverter is one centralized inverter again, that converts all of your DC current to AC current. There’s nothing wrong with a string inverter, but there are instances in residential solar installations in which the shading of one panel can decrease the production of all of those solar panels that are connected in series. So the industry has come up with two technologies to address those challenges. And they have pretty similar results. I’ll just explain the differences here.
So the first one is a micro inverter. And micro inverters are small inverters that are placed on the back of each individual panel. Power optimizers are another choice here. In that scenario, you have one centralized inverter but you have a component that’s on the back of each individual panel. Again, both of these technologies, the micro inverter and the power optimizers, have a similar function to make sure that the shading or lower production of one panel doesn’t decrease the production of the rest of the solar panels on your array. Both the micro inverters and power optimizers will be available through our Solarize Santa Barbara program.
How solar works
Alright, so here we are back at our beautiful model home. So you have your solar panels, your inverter, and then this will be connected to your electric panel. When I talk to a lot of people about going solar, they bring up this idea of disconnecting from the grid, but actually in cities or towns in residential solar applications, it’s a great thing to remain connected to the grid and you’ll maintain your connection to the grid as a solar customer as well. The way this works is your solar panel will be producing electricity when the sun is shining. Now, let’s say it’s a beautiful sunny day, and maybe the pandemic’s over and you’re back at work and you’re not in your home so you don’t need all the electricity that your system is producing. Those kilowatt hours will be sent back onto the grid, and your utility meter will keep track of the kilowatt hours that are sent on to the grid from your system. So as those kilowatt hours go back onto the grid, you will receive a monetary credit for each of those kilowatt hours that you can use later. It gets a little bit complicated to think about, but that idea is called net energy metering. I’ll walk you through an example of net energy metering.
Net Energy Metering: NEM
So for this customer example here, you can see that there are three different price points for this customer’s electricity. There is the on-peak pricing: that’s the most expensive. There’s off-peak, you know, in the middle range here, and then super off-peak: 15 cents per kilowatt hour. It’s in the customers best interest to use as much electricity as they can when it’s cheapest. It’s pretty straightforward. But it’s the kilowatt hours that are sent back onto the grid during this On-Peak time will be the most valuable.
So let’s walk through this customer’s day. All right, we’re starting here in the middle of the night. You might think this person is having a giant party with lots of lights, but actually this is the owner of an electric vehicle. And so he is charging his electric vehicle here and he’s doing so because electricity is cheap and it’s a great time to charge up. Alright, looks like they stopped charging at 5am, they’re starting to use a little bit of electricity. And then here you can see that the sun starts shining. And so rather than using electricity, those kilowatt hours are sent back onto the grid. And each of those kilowatt hours is correlated with a value on the customer’s bill close to this off-peak price.
The idea here is that these are fairly valuable credits, and these are even more valuable credits into the evening. And then the customer comes home and starts using some energy from the grid. So even though it looks like they’re using a lot of electricity, and maybe not banking so many kilowatt hours, because these kilowatt hours are worth more, this customer actually has excess credits that will roll over day today, week to week and month to month. So these sunny summer months that we’re having will actually give you a chance to save up your credits that you can apply automatically. It’s not something that you need to worry about, but that will be automatically applied to your bill during the shorter winter months.
Common concerns with solar
So at the Community Environmental Council, we have been talking to people for a while about how they could most be supported by going solar. And as we have these conversations with people in the community, maybe these questions have come up for you too, it was a lot of uncertainty: who to work with, what kind of technology is the best and how do I pay for it? So in response to these questions CEC has offered our Solarize program and helped about 800 local homeowners add solar to their homes. It’s been a really fantastic process, very rewarding. And the idea here is that we’re making it easier for folks to go solar. Let me tell you how.
Problems & solutions of solar
In terms of selecting the right contractor, we started by putting together a committee of folks in the community; some from our local government, some with especially strong knowledge and finance, some with contracting experience. And so this was our panel of experts. And we invited solar companies in our community to apply to work with our program. Our committee really looked through the applications with a fine tooth comb, and at the end of the day, our committee selected three wonderful solar contractors that you’ll get to meet shortly in this webinar to work with.
In addition to selecting the contractor, our committee also really looked at what type of equipment companies were offering. So we made sure that the solar panels had excellent warranties. The inverters had excellent warranties as well. And then we sat down with these contractors, and we negotiated a great price. So you can think of the solarize program as basically a sale. We set up a limited time sale for all residents of Southern Santa Barbara County with three local companies that have been vetted for you by trusted folks in the community.
All right, and this last question here, regarding paying for your solar. We’ll talk through some options here. And generally, you might have more questions than what I’ve listed here as well. One aspect of the Solarize program is having someone in your court. And so we act as a Solarize coach for you. And we’re available via phone and email to answer all of your solar questions.
Goals of Solarize Santa Barbara
And really, the goal here is just to bring more solar to our region. We want to increase the renewable energy that is on our grid. And we want to do so by keeping those economic benefits local and supporting local solar businesses. We also want to make sure you’re getting a great deal on a really high quality product.
Who is eligible for Solarize?
All right, in order to be eligible and participate in this program, you need to have a home in southern Santa Barbara County, and you need a place to put your solar panels. And so for most folks, we’re looking at roof installs, and the roof face that’s going to get you the most kilowatt hours is… Anyone at home remember? That’s right, you got it: south-facing roof. But east and west facing roofs can also be good options for some solar installations. This is also a limited time program. And so the sale that we set up with these three installers is available until the end of October. You would need to sign a contract by that date, but you would have some time to actually move forward with the installation.
Credits and incentives
Alright, so whether or not you choose to go solar through the Solarize program, there is a great incentive from our federal government that does support solar adoption. And so the federal tax credit is currently at the 26% level which would apply to your solar and also to your battery systems that we will discuss very shortly. That federal tax credit drops down to 22% next year, and then goes away in 2022. So it’s kind of a too-good-to-pass-up opportunity to bring down the cost of your solar system.
That idea of net energy metering that we talked about previously is also a great financial incentive to go solar, because again, the kilowatt hours that you don’t use right away, get sent back onto the grid, you get to accumulate those credits and apply them to your future energy purchase.
Costs of solar: example
All right, so people tend to want an example cost of solar. And again, this is just one example, but a four and a half kilowatt system through the Solarize program will cost around $15,000. You apply that federal tax credit, and that brings down the cost to about $11,000. And we do want to be transparent here that all of the solar companies that we are working with do pay a 15 cent a watt portion back to the Community Environmental Council. But that’s never a line item that you will see on your proposal, for instance. We’re bringing customers to these wonderful companies that are already doing great work and this allows us to offer these programs.
We’ve vetted these companies that have high quality panels and inverters. These are a few options of the technologies that are available from our participating companies. You might think this is a little bit over to think about, but each of the companies that we’re working with have two options. There’s one option that is our value panel that we’ve negotiated very aggressive pricing on and there’s a more efficient panel that’s also available through each company, that would be a best fit for you probably if you have a limited roof space and you’re trying to get as much energy as possible out of a small area. And all of the companies have both optimizer and microinverter options, as I mentioned.
You might be getting excited and still thinking, I don’t necessarily have $15,000 lying around. So many folks that I talked to are able to pay for their solar systems through secured loans with home equity lines of credit. But recently, the unsecured loan space has also really grown quite a bit. So I’ve been especially impressed with the options that are available. Great APRs and when you actually sit down with your financing offer, you might come to realize that you’re going to pay for this system over, you know, perhaps 12 years, but during that time when you’re paying for your system, your bill to pay this system will be lower than your previous SCE bill. So even when you’re financing a system, you can still have some immediate savings.
What about leases?
Alright, and leases are not something that we’re offering through the program, but I did just want to bring them up because we do get a lot of questions about them. So maybe someone’s coming to your door and said: Knock knock, want to go solar for free? These people aren’t lying to you. You can go solar for no upfront costs through leases, or they’re commonly called PPAs, or Power Purchase Agreements. This scenario involves a long term agreement between you and a solar company. They come and install the solar system for free and then they sell the electricity that your solar system produces for typically 20 years. It’s a scenario again, that can save you maybe 20% on your electricity bill for some customers – depends on your usage. But we are not offering leases through our program because, through our financial analysis, it’s definitely in your best interest to purchase the system up front if you can, or to finance the system, and then eventually gain ownership. You will have a much better return on investment there.
Batteries: potential benefits
Okay, so for you battery folks – time to start paying attention. Batteries have been a huge area of interest for folks in our community, especially since our utilities began the public safety power shut offs last year. The most obvious benefit, of course, is you will have power when the grid goes down. If you currently have solar, you know that when the grid goes down, your solar also goes down. And that’s for the safety of the grid. But if you do have a battery, then you can maintain at least some power to your home. The power that you maintain during a power outage is usually just your critical circuit.
So you would determine, in most cases, what you really want to have on when the grid goes down. For a lot of people, it’s your refrigerator, maybe your internet router, and a few other things. There are options if you want to invest a little bit more heavily in batteries. But that’s one option. All right, another great thing about batteries, from my perspective, is their ability to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of our electricity production, and I’ll call that regional grid benefits here.
Essentially, when we’re charging up our batteries during the day from our solar system, and then able to draw out electricity in the evening when the grid is most stressed, we are using our own stored solar electricity, rather than using grid electricity, which has its own mix. And we’re also decreasing the stress on the grid. As I mentioned before, this is also eligible for the 26% federal tax credit.
A personal solar story
I would love to introduce you to someone who has actually gone through this experience herself. So please join me in welcoming Katie Davis from the Sierra Club to share her story.
Katie Davis, Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter: Here I am. Hi, thank you, April. I want to give a little firsthand experience with getting a home battery. And as April says getting a solar plus battery to start is absolutely the best way to do it. There’s significant savings getting them together. So for the majority of you who are looking to get solar and battery, I think that really makes sense right now.
I was in a situation in which we moved into our house and we had existing solar on the house when we moved in. But as we were living here, we realized that it was not enough to eliminate our electric bill. So we still had quite a significant electric bill.
We could add more solar, which we looked at, and it didn’t really make sense. But then we looked at the battery option because it turned out the problem with the bill was not that we weren’t producing enough solar, but it was when we were producing it – when we were using our energy and it’s the time of use: those key, expensive, in the evening hours were the issue. The nice thing about a battery is we could get it and it and we could integrate it with our existing solar. And we did and it works great. And then we could shift our time of use, so we’re pulling from the battery during the evening hours.
This last little picture is this cool app; we have a Tesla Powerwall so it offers this app on your phone that you can use to monitor how much you’re producing from your solar and how much is going into the battery and how much the home is pulling. So the picture there shows the evening hours when there’s a little little bit of solar production, not very much. But we’re mostly running off the battery. You can see the battery is going to our home, the little bit of solar is going to our home and there’s not much grid power at that point. So that’s what it’s showing. And by doing that, it is eliminating our electric bill, so that savings will, in our case, pay for the cost of the battery.
The other advantage of having the battery is because we have these power shut offs and outages and it seems to be becoming more common. We live in an area that was actually near the Holiday Fire. There were areas that were caused by a power line in high hot winds, so it makes sense that they should shut these things down when you have these high winds. That means you can’t use your solar energy even if you’re producing it whereas if you have a battery you can. But you can still have some electricity in the house and you can see in the picture of me here I’ve got an electric car charger there too. You can even trickle charge your car if you need to. Power’s out, things like that. It’s nice to have that backup. So that is another huge benefit.
And then lastly, the other other thing that I think is really cool about getting a battery in our area is that the reason that those evening hours are so expensive and why they’re pushing to do these some of these plans is because we need to produce energy to meet peak demand. And that’s when the peak demand is. That’s when everybody’s cooking, watching TV on the computer, all the lights on etc. And by driving that demand down, not pulling from the grid at that time, we’re reducing the amount of energy the whole region has to produce.
And that has allowed, in essence, us to not build a new power plant in Oxnard, which was what Southern California Edison had originally proposed to do. They were going to build this gas or plan on the beach in Oxnard. That was an environmental justice issue because we keep putting our polluting power plants on the beach in Oxnard in a disadvantaged community, so the community objected and we objected because we need to start moving off of fossil fuels and we don’t want to keep building new infrastructure and we demanded that Southern California Edison consider alternatives. And so they did. They looked at other options and they instead realized that battery storage would solve the problem and bring down that peak usage. And so they could shut down some of those power plants in Oxnard and not build another one. So that’s really, really cool. Mostly they’re using these large commercial installations, but the network home batteries are also contributing to that solution.
So that is another really cool thing that I’m happy to help be a part of, and I did send a link in the chat to everyone with an article about how that’s happening, how we are moving to battery storage in the evening hours and reducing peak demand and how that is preventing us from having to build new power plants.
Those are the three things that I think are really cool: savings, doing good and reducing the need for power plants, and having backup power. It’s been working great. And it’s been really fun. Thanks, April.
April Price, CEC: Yeah. Thank you so much, Katie. Yeah, you make a great point. As our grid becomes more and more renewable, we do need an entire distributed set of batteries to support that transition. And so they will happen in large battery installations on the grid. But if you choose to do one on your home, then you have your own backup when the power goes down. So thank you so much for sharing your story, Katie. Have you had a power outage where your battery switched on and how was that experience for you?
Katie Davis, SCLPC: We haven’t noticed any power outages. So it’s working great. Yeah, that’s the thing – you don’t even necessarily notice it.
April Price, CEC: Okay, wonderful. Well, thank you, Katie. And Katie can answer some other questions momentarily. So, if there’s things coming up for you, go ahead and put them in our question and answer section. Through the Solarize program, I so far have focused mainly on the solar technologies, but we have also negotiated discounts on several battery technologies. The various companies are offering a few different options for adding storage here. We thought about making this really straightforward and just having one option, but we wanted to give you some options here. And so we’re happy to talk through the benefits of each of these technologies from the perspective of our installers who work in this field every day. All right.
Batteries: how much will they cost?
And, again, to just get to the nitty gritty here, as an example, just an example of how much a battery costs. I tend to get the most questions about Tesla Powerwalls. And so you’re looking at generally, an upfront cost around $15,000 with federal tax credit that brings the cost down to closer to $11,000. Again, to give you a general idea of what to expect when you’re considering battery storage.
Add an electric vehicle
Throughout this conversation you might have been thinking, yeah, well, this is cool, this is interesting, but I only spend about 50 bucks on my electricity bill. It’s never gonna make sense for me to go solar or to add storage. And so we have another webinar that covers the benefits of adding an electric vehicle. But once you do add an electric vehicle to your, basically your electric requirements for your home, of course you’re eliminating your gas bill, but suddenly the payback for solar is fantastic. And there are some great federal and state incentives here. And I’ve been especially impressed by the lease offerings from electric vehicle providers, as low as $200 a month we’ve seen. If you’re also not buying gas that can be a fantastic choice for many folks in the community. And there’s more information about driving electric at driveelectric805.org.
Questions and answers
Questions noted below in bold, italic font.
Okay, so I think we’re going to transition into the question and answer portion of our conversation here. I’ll go ahead and introduce our panelists. From Brighten Solar, we have Jeremy Favier. Hi Jeremy, thank you for joining us. From California Solar Electric we have Chelsea Vaughan. Hi Chelsea. And from Sun Pacific we have Fraser Kersey. So thank you. Folks have been adding some questions to the conversation here and I’ll just go ahead and ask you to share your knowledge and expertise with us. Just as a reminder to folks on the webinar, all three of these companies were vetted and are offering their discounts through the Solarize Santa Barbara program.
Okay, so the first question is, thank you, Larry. Larry asked, can SCE pull from your battery in an emergency? Let’s see. Jeremy, you want to take that one?
Jeremy Favier, Brighten Solar: Yes, yes, none that I know of so far. There is no program in place from Edison or any utility company to really take on your battery in case of an emergency. Now, there are some state rebates, state incentives, available if you’re installing a battery and because of that, one of the requirements to be able to qualify for those rebates is to discharge your batteries at least 52 times a year. So they are not pulling out of your battery, but they are making sure that you are discharging them into the grid several times to comply with this rebate.
April Price, CEC: So it’s not something where the utilities are going to take control of your battery. Thanks, Jeremy. All right. We have a question from Yvonne here: what is the lead time for getting a project done? And is by the end of the tax year possible at this time? Chelsea, do you want to take that?
Chelsea Vaughan, California Solar Electric: Yes, definitely. That would be the goal of every Solarize project that comes through and barring any major things. Even with the COVID delays, things will still definitely get done.
April Price, CEC: Okay, great. And we have a question from Doug. His question is: how long do batteries last? And Fraser I’ll hand this one to you. I know that Sun Pacific installs lots of different types of batteries, but maybe you can speak to the ones specifically available through the Solarize program here.
Fraser Kersey, Sun Pacific Solar Electric: Sure. The easy answer is: it depends. Every battery has different types of cycle count rating. So a cycle is basically a discharge and a recharge. There are different chemistries of different types of batteries. Some chemistries like lithium iron phosphate or have a much higher cycle, counting reading, then something like a Tesla Powerwall or an LG battery, which is lithium-cobalt, nickel-cobalt.
So it really depends on the type of chemistry, the type of product you’re looking at. But most batteries are under warranty for about 10 years. A lot have a cycle count of anywhere around 10,000 cycles. Those are in some ways theoretical counts with some of the batteries just because they haven’t been around for that long. Yes they’ve had elevated testing in different factories but they haven’t actually lived out in the field for 10,000 cycles. So we’ll see some of these batteries. But there’s a lot of good research happening right now with lithium iron phosphate that shows quite a large cycle count with sewn in and sun power batteries specifically.
April Price, CEC: Okay, great. Thank you so much. And I know that you are specifically selling and one of the batteries that you’re selling is the Powerwall. So can you speak specifically to how long the Powerwall would last?
Fraser Kersey, SPSE: Again, it depends. A lot of that has to do with how you use it. Typically we program the battery so that it won’t just discharge below the 80% depth of discharge. It’s kind of like your cell phone, if you let it die consistently on a regular basis, the lifetime of that battery and your cell phone is just not going to be that long. Our goal is to obviously have it last as long as possible. And, you know, with a Powerwall, you can easily get three to 6000 cycles out of that. I think it is a fair estimate, you know, within that 10 year warranty. But again, it’s how you treat it. The less depth of use of that battery, you know, the longer it’s going to last for you.
April Price, CEC: Okay, wonderful. And let’s see here. Lots of great questions here. Is it better to get an electric vehicle before installing solar? Can you speak to the process there, Jeremy?
Jeremy Favier, BS: I don’t know if it’s better. But let’s say that the issue is choosing an electric vehicle or not – then your consumption will be higher. We will install more solar panels. We’re going to get some economies of scale with that. But I mean, no matter what, even if you’re not, I don’t think it’s fair to tell you to rush into purchasing an electric car to install more panels right now. If you need to add more panels in the future, because you’re consuming more, we can always increase the size of the system. There is absolutely no primary button. Today with most technologies and most inverters used in the industry, you can do this so it’s not a problem to increase the size later.
April Price, CEC: Okay, great. Thank you. We have a question from Paul. Do batteries and inverters need to be located next to your electric panel? And, how can you solve these problems when there are space limitations? Chelsea, you want to take that?
Chelsea Vaughan, CSE: It just depends on the scenario. We have a battery expert who comes out and does a site assessment and it’s obviously better to be close but there are scenarios where we can work within the confines of the scenario. But we would get all that information up front and discuss with the homeowner where they would like it and what makes the most sense.
Katie Davis, SCLPC: Yeah, our battery is a ways away from the panel for just that reason and they ran kind of a pipe to get there. Yeah, it can be done. You just have to see.
April Price, CEC: Okay. Sam asks, if he can’t point the solar system toward south, is it possible to install west? And then can you speak to the benefits of a west facing system? Fraser?
Fraser Kersey, SPSE: Yeah, sure. Well, west is great also, especially with this four to nine time of use rate, especially in the summertime when it’s still light out till nine o’clock at night. We’re still you know, making those credits during that high use or high rate kilowatt hour time. So, a west facing roof can be very beneficial as well. You know, typically yes, south is better. There’s also tilts at our latitude, you know, 30 to 34 degree tilt roughly is optimal as well. So, it also depends on the pitch of your roof and how much production you get on whatever facing direction.
April Price, CEC: Okay, great. A couple people have asked the question, can a battery be located in a detached garage if the solar panels are located on the roof of the main house? Jeremy, you want to take that?
Jeremy Favier, BS: Yeah, sure. Everything is possible, but it’s not necessarily easy. So the thing is that when you install a battery you want it to be connected to a backup panel that will power only the loads that you want to power during a power outage. So if a battery is in one detached garage and the solar panel is on the house, it’s always possible to bring back the wires that are connecting the solar panels to your house into the backups of panels located in the garage. Just that requires some trenching to do so and stuff like this.
You don’t necessarily have to have a solar system connected somehow to the battery but it’s better to do so because when it’s this way, when the grid is down but there is still sun, the solar panels are charging back your batteries. If you don’t do this is just batteries and whatever you have in the battery at the time of a power outage available. So, it’s possible, but not easy. Sorry if that’s not the best answer or what you wanted to hear.
April Price, CEC: Okay. We have a few people asking questions about whether, if you have solar already, then can you participate in the Solarize Santa Barbara program? And I’ll just say the answer is yes. And the tax credit can also be applied to the battery, if it is if it’s being used with the solar.
Okay, great questions here. All right, we have a question from Russell: is it possible to completely operate without SCE involvement, that is, disconnect from the grid and operate only with batteries and solar? Chelsea, you want to take that?
Chelsea Vaughan, CSE: It is possible. We don’t necessarily suggest it but it’s definitely possible with a fully off grid situation. And we can absolutely take a look at that.
Katie Davis, SCLPC: I also want to add that our region is going to be joining a Community Choice Energy Plan and Santa Barbara is going to launch their own and the county centers of Goleta and Carpinteria are joining them on arrays. And those Community Choice Energy programs are going to be an alternative to Southern California Edison in terms of your energy plan, and they tend to have extra benefits for solar owners because they want to encourage that. So I think that’s going to launch in 2021. And I think it’s only going to get better for solar owners, the options, because you can choose Southern California Edison and the Community Choice Plan.
April Price, CEC: Yeah, great point, Katie. We have a question here about roof warranties. So I’ll go ahead and read it. What is the situation with warranty of the existing roof against new leaks after installation? So Fraser, you want to take that one?
Fraser Kersey, SPSE: Sure. Well we’ve been around for 13 years and we’ve never had a roof leak – knock on wood. Every company has their own warranty for workmanship. Ours is 10 years on the workmanship. A lot of times when we do reroofs or a variety of other things, the roofer will hold the warranty with your roof for however long they may do that. Typically, it’s a 10 year warranty with most people. I hope that answers your question.
April Price, CEC: Okay, wonderful. Let’s see, you’re doing great. Thank you guys. We have a couple people asking about where to install the batteries and if the batteries will be installed outside. Jeremy, you want to take that?
Jeremy Favier, BS: Yes, sure. It depends on the battery manufacturer. Some battery manufacturers have their enclosure rated only for inside installation, some from outside installation. So everything is possible here, honestly just depends on the manufacturers you’re choosing.
April Price, CEC: Okay. And we have questions about the other technologies other than the Tesla Powerwall. I don’t know if you want to speak to…Let’s see, we have a couple installers that offer Tesla Powerwalls. I know Jeremy you’re offering a different product. I know you just spoke but do you want to introduce your product that you’re selling through this program?
Jeremy Favier, BS: Yes, sure. So we are offering the Sonnen battery for this program as Fraser has been talking about before, we strongly believe in the lithium chemistry from batteries and not batteries with cobalt. So that’s why we stay away from cobalt. The main difference between Sonnen and other batteries and Sun Power is offering a cobalt-free battery as well is that the chemistry inside is a little bit different. There are some studies showing the benefits of one over the other. So I don’t know if now is the place to really talk about and dive into those differences but mainly it is what is inside the battery that makes a difference.
April Price, CEC: Okay, so we might dive a little bit more deeply there. We have the different, we call them different battery chemistries, right. We have the battery chemistry for the Powerwall that a lot of people ask about. Would that chemistry be similar to the chemistry of the LG Chem product that’s also being sold through this program through Sun Pacific?
Fraser Kersey, SPS: Yeah. To be straightforward, the Powerwall and an LG solution is definitely more economical in a lot of ways, but it’s economical in the upfront costs and if you look at the whole life of the battery and how much value you can create over time or how much avoided energy costs. The kilowatt hour price of the Sun Power battery or another type of configuration with simplified batteries and say not Skybox, is a much better system to go with to create that value over the lifetime of the battery.
April Price, CEC: Okay, this Sun Power battery has come up in a couple of comments, Chelsea, I know that your company offers the Sun Power battery. Have you installed any of those yet? Or what’s the timeline for that availability?
Chelsea Vaughan, CSE: They are available now. We have not installed one. We have one coming up shortly, but we’ve just been able to offer them. They’re part of the Sun Power Solution, so some newer Sun Power customers can get them put in if they already have solar or it can be part of the brand new full solar and they’re calling it the Sun Power Sun Volt Solution. It’s a great product and it comes with Sun Power’s 25 year warranty and they’re backing it where everything’s all at the one company so it’s a great option.
Fraser Kersey, SPSE: Can I add to that? Specifically with the Sun Volts and Power battery it’s only a 10 year warranty on the actual battery but it is under one company. And the first release of the battery is only available with new solar installation with some power AC panels, so they need micro inverters on those panels.
Chelsea Vaughan, CSE: We can retrofit it with the AC modules if they’re this certain type.
April Price, CEC: Okay, great. And we have a few questions coming through about what the discount is. And so I’ll just go ahead and take that one. So each of the companies fit into our program with a specific price point or the equipment that they’re using. And again, these prices were reviewed and further negotiation happened with our committee, but I would like to be straightforward that we did set up a sale for you, but we’re not guaranteeing that it’s the cheapest option on the market. We’re really looking to make sure that you’re getting a high quality experience from the training of the folks installing your equipment. We looked at the customer reviews of folks that have already worked with these companies and also the products that were installed. That was really kind of the wraparound delivery that the program is helping to offer.
All right. We have a question here about sizing a system so Lenny here says: how big of a system is needed for a 2000 square foot house that uses air conditioning in the summer? Forget where we are here. Chelsea, you want to take that one?
Chelsea Vaughan, CSE: Sure. It really varies on all sorts of elements of how much usage you have in your home. So we really encourage people to get a copy of your bill out and just have somebody come and do a site visit. They can give you real numbers and there’s no pressure if you decide you don’t want to go with it, but it makes sense to look at real numbers. Everyone uses electricity differently depending on the size of the home and the occupancy doesn’t necessarily always equate to different systems. We can definitely give you very real numbers based on what your usage is.
Jeremy Favier, BS: If I can just add something here and I’m really sorry to do so. We just did one this morning. So it was like about a four, 4.5 kilowatt system for a 2000 square foot house with air conditioning. Yeah, between four and five kilowatts.
April Price, CEC: Okay. Wonderful. Let’s just speak to the warranties of the solar panels here. Let’s go through a scenario here. If I install my solar and I have a severe drop in production year nine, who do I call? What do I do and how much does it cost me? Jeremy, you want to take it?
Jeremy Favier, BS: Yeah, sure. You call the solar installer, no matter who you are choosing here. Each of us have a lot of experience knowing what to do – we’ve spent years on those issues. The three companies here are real professionals and have a lot of expertise so they will be able to come on site to really troubleshoot the system and see if there is something that we can do. And if it’s a material problem, then we will work with the manufacturer to deal with this and to get new product, if it’s necessary.
On the product, on the warranty right now, most manufacturers are offering a 25 year warranty. There are always some details and some things that change from one manufacturer to the other on what is covered or not in the warranty. So it’s important to pay attention to this with what you’re choosing. For example, if you’re really facing the ocean. If you’re a little bit far away, depending on the application, there’s different types of things to look into. But as a good rule of thumb, think about 25 years warranty. That’s what you’re going to get through your system.
April Price, CEC: Okay, wonderful. And CEC, through this process did look at the financials of all of these companies and the committee felt that they were likely to be around for a while, but you know, our economy’s in uncertain times. So, Chelsea, what do we do if, maybe your company installs a wonderful product in our house, but you suddenly have a big drop in production, and your company is no longer around? Who do we call and how much will it cost us?
Chelsea Vaughan, SCE: That is a good question. We plan to be around but and we are we get calls a lot from companies that are no longer in business. That’s why it helps to go through a program like this where we’re not only offering very valuable panels but also equipment and expertise, so the companies stand behind their products. Talking about the answers to the manufacturer, you can call, I guess, another solar company and they can help facilitate it. And it just depends on, I guess what they would want to charge. Sun Power will make sure a Sun Power dealer handles the warranty issue, and they will cover the costs of it in most cases. That’s another scenario for that. But I know all three of our companies have been around for a while and I’m sure we’ve all had our share of helping out orphaned solar customers. But we all plan to be around.
April Price, CEC: So you have orphan solar customers, meaning the company that installed their product is no longer in business. You would charge for your work and then do you typically get free replacements from the manufacturers if they’re still under warranty?
Chelsea Vaughan, SCE: Generally, if the product is still under warranty, then we would help facilitate getting that. And we’ve been around for 20 years and we’ve weathered some storms. We plan to be around for that, not a contingency.
April Price, CEC: Okay, well, there are more questions coming in. But I do want to respect everyone’s time. We’re just coming to the end here. So thank you to our panelists for your expertise, we really appreciate that. Moving forward, if you’re a person in southern Santa Barbara County that is interested in exploring options through this program, you can go to our website, solarizesb.org, and sign up for the program and then you’ll be put in contact with solar coaching if you’d like from me and my colleague Aubrey at CEC or you can also just get quotes from our installers at our discounted pricing.
Sign up at solarizesb.org. I want to thank everyone for your attendance today. We will be following up with answers to some of your questions that we were not able to address on this webinar. And I’d also like to thank our local municipal partners here. Thank you to the counties and cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria. And thank you for everything else. Take care everyone. Stay safe, stay healthy.