April Price, Community Environmental Council: Afternoon, folks. Welcome to our webinar on residential, solar and battery systems. My name is April Price with the Community Environmental Council. And we are so excited that you have joined us today, we will have just about an hour to go over some solar battery and programmatic basics.
So just to give you an idea of what you can expect, this hour is going to go quickly. We are celebrating clean air day today. So we’ll start off with a little intro there. I’ll tell you a little bit more about my organization. And then we’ll get into the meat of the presentation, getting into solar battery options, and our Solarize Ventura County program itself and the discounts that are available to you. We plan to end this webinar today with about 15 minutes of questions and answers from local experts in the Ventura County region. These are solar installers that have been specifically selected to work with our program. And we’re also lucky enough to have a member of our community Kent Bullard, who has been a solar battery and electric vehicle owner for several years now to, you know, share his experience as someone who’s gone through this process himself.
So I’ll go ahead and welcome Heather Allen from the Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance.
Heather Allen, Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance: Yeah, hi, I’m Heather with Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance, our VCREA as like, we like to refer to it. We’re a regional agency with board members that represent the counties, cities and special districts. In our county, we collaborate to develop and implement sustainable energy and climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives. So we’re really excited to partner with CEC today on Clean Air Day, as well as many other projects.
So Clean Air Day is built on the idea that shared experiences unite people to action to improve our community health. By joining together for a unified day of action, we can create new habits to clean the air for all members of California’s diverse communities. We take or we encourage everyone to take the cleaner day pledge. And all webinar participants will be entered into a giveaway to win one of two Burimi Premium True Hepa air purifiers that are an anchor power core portable charger. So good luck. And thanks for joining us.
April Price, CEC: Great, thank you so much. Thank you VCREA partnership on this event.
All right. And the Community Environmental Council is the nonprofit that I work with. We’ve been around since 1970. We’re celebrating our 50th birthday. And our organization is focused on regional solutions to climate change. We have five initiatives that are shown in icons on the bottom of your screen. But of course, today, we are most interested in going solar, so we can just jump right into this.
All right, so to make sure that I know my audience a little bit more, we’ll go ahead and launch a poll. And you can tell us a little bit about what brings you here today. Do you already have solar and you’re looking to add energy storage to deal with those pesky public safety power shut offs? Is this a whole new process for you? Or maybe you’re just interested in learning? So just giving folks a couple more seconds to answer here.
April Price, CEC: And, great, we have a pretty good mix here. So about half of the audience is interested in adding new solar and batteries. Fantastic. And some folks, about 10% – 14% are interested in adding battery batteries to an existing system. About 10% are interested in just adding solar. Wonderful. Thank you for your participation there.
All right. So flash forward to the future. And this could be your home or something, something similar to it. This is a very happy customer from one of our Solarize programs last year.
The Benefits of Solar
There are several reasons why people opt to go solar and or add energy storage. As my colleague at the Community Environmental Council Michael Chiacos likes to remind me fairly regularly. Going solar has just made him very happy. He rides his bike up to his home to see solar panels and gets a lot of joy from that experience. So if that’s why you’re here today, that’s fantastic. You might also be interested in the environmental benefits of adding solar. And at CEC, we’re certainly interested in that benefit of the process.
But there’s also really strong economic signals to drive the adoption of renewable energy. For instance, you’re going to be increasing the value of your home. There was a study done about five years ago now by the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, that showed that homes in California that have solar sold for about $15,000 more than comparable homes in the same area. So you know, you may be looking to invest about $15,000 or less in your system. And then you’re really looking to get those benefits back when you sell your home.
But in the more immediate future, you’re really looking to save a lot of money on your electricity bill. Just a quick teaser here: this is a customer that is considering going solar, he came to us with a bill of $167 a month. And his proposal here shows that after solar, his monthly bill will drop down to $30 a month. The really impressive thing here is you’re looking at the long term savings of close to $70,000. And this is from an investment after the Federal Tax Credit has been applied. That’s about $13,000. So investing $13,000, for a close to $70,000 return is just in my book a fantastic investment.
All right, you’re also really taking a little bit of control of your own energy usage. And, by extension, you’re decreasing your reliance on those changing electricity prices from our utilities.
I’ll assume that most folks in this audience are customers of Clean Power Alliance and you probably still get your bill from Southern California Edison, but your rates are related to CPAs rate structures. Just so that you’re familiar of what you’re already paying for your electricity, sometimes we just get the bill and pay it without spending too much time focusing on it.
And you’re probably billed currently based on a time of use pricing structure. This is just an example tariff, but I wanted to walk you through it because it will become a little bit more relevant as we walk into your predicted savings once you go solar.
So again, this simply means you’re paying a different price for electricity based on when you use electricity. In the evening, and all night, you’re at this super off peak time, which means that your electricity is cheapest, and the middle of the night. Okay, and into the morning, your most expensive electricity will be during the week, in the afternoon into the early evening. So you can see here, there’s a pretty big price differential between those two, those two prices of electricity. And then for the rest of the time, you’re in this off peak category, which is closer to your super off peak.
Alright, so again, this is just an example. These tariffs do change. There are several options, but this is a summer tariff, available June to October.
How Solar Works
Alright, so now to jump into the basics of how solar works. I’m sure that you’ve all driven around town or walked around town and seeing these beautiful solar panels on your neighbor’s homes.
So the most obvious portion of a solar system are those solar panels, which are a key component of the system. I’m not an engineer, but they do a great job of capturing the sun’s energy. And there’s another component that you might not be as familiar with. That’s the inverter. So the solar panels create direct current energy, and the inverter is a key component because the appliances and our home homes run off of alternating current.
A bit of a crash course on inverters here. The kind of standard or original approach to an inverter technology is still around and still works perfectly fine. And it would be called a central or string inverter. So this is one larger piece of equipment that, again, changes the DC to AC current, and it would probably be mounted in your garage. Now, one downside of a central inverter is that if one of these panels has any degree of shading, or malfunction, the other panels that are connected in series will have similar decreases in function.
So the industry has come up with two solutions to address those potential challenges. They are the microinverter option and power optimizer option. The micro inverter solution is one small inverter that’s placed on the back of every panel. And the power optimizer has one centralized inverter, but one component that’s on the back of each panel.
Both of these are very similar results in that, again, the shading of one panel won’t decrease the power output of your entire of all of the other panels. Both of these technologies also allow you to monitor the production of the panels on a panel by panel basis.
At this point, I’ve introduced a good amount of information to you. And I forgot to mention that you can ask questions while I’m talking through this and that are ready to answer questions as you type them.
As I mentioned, we have representatives from two solar companies: California Solar Electric, and Sespi Power Solutions that can answer your questions right away if you write them in the Q & A. Perhaps you see a question that someone else wrote that you are also interested in hearing the answer to – you can go ahead and thumbs up that question.
All right. So we’re back to our centralized system here. We walked through solar panels and the inverter. This system is going to maintain a connection to the electrical panel into the grid.
Now a lot of people ask me, all right, I’m going solar, should I just go off grid? Well, if you have a cabin in the woods, going off grid can be a fantastic solution. But most of us who live in a more urban area actually get quite a few benefits from maintaining our connection to the grid once we add solar. And that’s because the utilities bill our solar production, and our our other electricity usage, through something called net energy metering. The basics here are that as your solar system produces energy, it’s going to send those kilowatt hours first into your house.
Now, you might not need all the kilowatt hours that your system produces in the middle of the day, right? You might be back at work, or you might be out enjoying a beautiful sunny day yourself. Those excess kilowatt hours aren’t wasted, but they’re sent back onto the grid. And your electricity meter will run backwards, and you’ll receive a monetary credit for each of those kilowatt hours that is sent on to the grid. Now the value of those kilowatt hours will be based on the value of the electricity at the time that it was produced.
I know it’s a lot, so I’ll walk you through an example.
Here is a picture from a solar customer’s net energy metering bill here, and this is one day worth of electricity consumption. You can see here that when the bars are above zero, this customer is using electricity from the grid. And when the bars are below zero here, this customer is sending their electricity back onto the grid and accumulating credits. As we talked about earlier, in CPAs (Clean Power Alliance’s) summer tariff that I introduced earlier, the on peak price is about 25 and a half cents. Off peak was a little bit cheaper and super, super off peak is the cheapest electricity. You can think of cheapest from the grid, but most valuable from a production standpoint.
Net Energy Metering
Let’s walk through this customer’s day, or let’s start at the moment.
All right, customers using a lot of electricity in the middle of the night. Any guesses of what’s going on here?
That’s right, this person is charging an electric vehicle, this person knows that it’s the cheapest to charge their EV when the grid electricity is the most affordable, so great planning here and charging electricity starting at, you know, around midnight, and ending at around 5am.
All right, then they’re waking up using a little bit of electricity. And then hey, the sun, the sun starts shining around eight or nine o’clock in the morning. And those excess kilowatt hours are sent back onto the grid, this customer is now accumulating credits here that are close in value to the off peak price.
All right, at around two o’clock, when we move into peak pricing, we’re starting to accumulate even more valuable credits. These credits are close in value to 25-26 cents per kilowatt hour.
All right, then maybe this person comes home from their day out and about, and uses a little bit more electricity from the grid. Although you might say hey, there’s a lot more area above, above the zero axis, this person is using more electricity from the grid. Well, that’s not a problem here, because this customer is accumulating high value credits, so in this month, they are actually rolling over these excess credits from day to day, and then month to month. And as a CPA customer, you get one true up your bill for your customer, your electricity every month, but then you get one true up that counts your excess electricity every April.
Alright, so this is for an EV user. This graph here might be for a more typical user, who hasn’t quite yet adopted electric vehicles. You can see here, they’re using a little bit of electricity from the grid in the middle of the night, sending electricity during the day, and then using more electricity in the evening. So again, this process is called net energy metering.
Common Concerns With Solar
Alright, so my organization has been working to support the adoption of renewable electricity in the community for more than a decade. And when we go out and talk to people in the community, these are the concerns that we hear and these are maybe concerns that you share too: Who to work with, how do I know what to buy? How much should this cost?
There’s a lot of confusing information around in the industry, honestly.
About nine years ago, we launched our Solarize program, which has helped over 800 homeowners in the Central Coast add renewable energy to their homes. And within Ventura County, we’ve helped about 250 homeowners.
The basics of this program – we are just trying to make this a little bit easier and a little bit more affordable for the average homeowner to to make the jump and to go solar. So how does this work?
Problems & Solutions of Solar
Well, the first step is making sure that you are working with a reputable company. To select contractors, the Community Environmental Council, sent out an RFP to all of the local contractors that had worked recently in the region. And these companies apply to work with us. We put together a committee of folks that had expertise in solar and finance, in general contract work, and really did some due diligence on your behalf to eventually select two companies that I mentioned earlier, that have a great record of success and have been doing some great work in our community. Those two companies are California Solar Electric, and Sespi Power Solutions.
Now part of this selection process was also making sure that these companies were using high quality equipment. I’ll walk you through quickly which equipment is available, but we made sure that these pieces of equipment had great, great warranties and would last for a long time. We also sat down with and negotiated a discounted price for this program. And the last benefit here is, you’re not going to go through this on your own.
So myself, and my colleague, Aubrey Baker, who is also answering questions via chat, are here to provide support. Whether you’re looking at bids from these two local solar companies, or maybe you already have bids from another company, and just want to make sure that you’re looking at a reasonable offer, we’re happy to sit down via phone call or zoom, and really help you consider your options.
Goals of Solarize Ventura
All right, so the goal here is to bring more renewable energy to the county. We want to do so by keeping those economic benefits local. And we want to make sure that the economic benefits stay in your pocket two. This is really working to bring down the costs of solar and making sure that you’re getting a quality installation that you won’t have to pay more for to fix in the future.
Who is Eligible for Solarize
In order to be eligible, and to participate in this discounted program, you will need to own a home in Ventura County. So the gist here is that we negotiated discounted pricing for a limited geographic range for a limited time. You basically just need a place to put your solar. Most people do opt to mount their solar, or have their solar mounted on their roof. I say appropriate roof here, – what do I mean “appropriate roof”? Well, a lot of roofs can be appropriate, you certainly need to have a sunny roof. Shading is definitely an impediment when it comes to solar. You’re also going to want to have a roof that faces towards optimal solar production so you’re getting the most solar production with a southern facing roof.
But as I mentioned, a few slides ago, the energy that’s produced in the early evening is going to be a very high value. So a west facing roof can also be a great option. And perhaps you might have, you know, an east and west facing roof. If you want to do two roof faces, that can be a good choice. In addition to the direction of your roof you should also think about the condition of your roof. Basically, you want to put solar panels on service that is well prepared and doesn’t need to be replaced in the near future. If you’re thinking, my roof is up for replacement in the next couple of years, well, this is a great time to pair those projects together. There can be some tax benefits in doing so. And working with a roofer and the solar installer together really allows for some comprehensive planning. If you have a red tile roof or a concrete roof, those are also appropriate for solar installs. I know that there are some installers that kind of shy away from doing that work. But again, we have vetted these solar companies and ensure they in most cases can work with a variety of roofs.
I mentioned that this is a limited time program. This program is planned to run through December 9. And that simply means that you would need to sign a contract with one of our vetted installers before that date.
Credits and Incentives
Now, whether you go solar through our program or not, there are some exciting federal incentives to support you in this process. There is currently a 26% federal tax credit that would apply to your solar installation, and that would apply to not just the equipment but to the entire project.
Now we are getting into October already. And that snuck up on me. So you know, you might have your project installed in early 2021. Perhaps, you know if that project is installed in early 2021, you would be eligible for 22% federal tax credit, but really wanting to take advantage of these credits. Act soon – they do disappear in 2022. I also just wanted to bring up again those wonderful economic benefits of the net energy metering billing process.
Cost of Solar: Example
Okay. So how much is this going to cost me?
I decided to give an example price through the Solarize program. There’s going to be quite a bit of variation in the price if you, again, have very small electricity demand, or if you have a very large electricity demand, the size of your system will vary significantly.
This example is sized to roughly $125 a month bill, which would be associated with a 4.5 kilowatt system, or 4500 watts. Another way to think about it. The installed cost through our discounted program, an example here would be around $14,000. If you are able to apply that 26% federal tax credit, that brings the price down to just over $10,000. We do want to be transparent here that the installers do pay a portion to the Community Environmental Council for every sale. And that’s just allowed us to continue this education and these programs in our community. It’s not something that’s a line item in your bill.
All right, I mentioned the vetting of the equipment. Both of the installers that we’re working with will have two options, they will have a standard option, which is most appropriate for most customers, you’re going to have a 25 year warranty production from those panels. That would be either an RAC panel or a Q cell panel, depending on which company you’re working with.
Both of the companies also offer a panel that has a higher production per panel. Let’s say you have a fairly high electricity bill, but you have fairly limited roof space to work with, you then might for one of the higher efficiency panels.
Alright, and I did introduce the optimizer and microinverter options as well, that both of the installers can support you with.
It’s a great deal. But you might still be thinking, ah, still a lot of money to come up with up front. There are some attractive financing options out there. A lot of customers that I’ve talked to do opt for a secured loan through a home equity line of credit. And you know, that can be a great way to pay for your solar system. I’ve also been impressed with the financing offers in the private market through solar loans. But again, both of our companies can help you. We’re looking at about a 2.99 APR over 12 years. When you think about, you know, paying for this system up front, how are you going to really get this going? Many times the loan options that you’re paying towards ownership can be lower than your electricity bill. You start saving money, immediately pay those loan payments over 12 years, and then ultimately have the system and the long term financial benefits.
What about leases? (Power Purchase Agreement)
Now I want to bring up leases because it’s a very common practice in the industry. Anyone out there on the internet had someone come to their home and say, you can go solar for free?
Yeah. Tell me about it.
Well, these solar sales people are not lying to you, but they are selling a very specific financial product to you. They’re selling – some people call it a lease – but more widely referred to as a PPA or a power purchase agreement. Through this financial offer the solar company will install it on your roof and then enter into usually a 20 year contract with you. You are basically agreeing to purchase all of the electricity those solar panels generate for a period of about 20 years. It can be a good option for some people. But if you’re thinking about doing it, the lease really asks you to think through it because in some cases the price for those kilowatt hours that you’re buying from from your own roof can end up being more expensive than the electricity that you would otherwise be purchasing from CPA. Just be very careful in those negotiations. And again, if you’re really thinking, well, this is the way to do it for free, really think through the financing option as an alternative to a lease.
Add an Electric Vehicle
A lot of other people that I talked to say, look, April, I love the idea of going solar, but I spent about $30, on electricity, or I spent about $50 a month on electricity, this is not going to be a good financial deal for me. I get it.
But I would encourage you to think for a long time, your long term plan for your electricity usage. Especially as so many Californians are leading in driving electric, adopting these new electric vehicles, if you do choose to add an electric vehicle to your lifestyle, suddenly, the solar equation makes a lot more sense.
I’ve been really impressed with how affordable electric vehicles have become. The Community Environmental Council has lots of resources and support for folks that are considering driving an EV. Go to electric drive805.org for this information. But again, if you’re thinking I just don’t use enough electricity to go solar, adding an EV suddenly, boom, lots of synergy there, your gas, and you’re saving on electricity.
Now we’ve walked through solar, you’re getting on board, you’re thinking of these beautiful solar panels on my roof. But hey, sometimes the grid goes down and what happens there?
When the Grid Goes Down
Unfortunately, if you have a solar system, it’s true that you will not be able to access your electricity from your solar system when the grid goes down.
A conversation that I don’t want to start around is the option that a lot of people in the community consider which is the option of a generator. There are several types of generators on the market. You are probably most familiar with diesel generators, gas and propane generators. These do provide backup power. But again, they have emissions associated with them and you need to of course have access to a full type to a fuel source in the event of a power outage. From our perspective, at CEC, we’re really trying to get a non-fossil fuel option during power outages.
There are a couple of options on here that might be good if you are really just looking for small support during an outage. These are often called electric generators, but they’re listed here as battery generators or solar generators. These are basically just small pieces of equipment that you would plug into your wall to charge up. And then during an outage, you can use these fully charged pieces of equipment to run maybe one piece of other equipment off of. Maybe your CPAP machine can run off of one of these pieces of equipment or another critical piece for you. These pieces of equipment are often used more in camping or off grid, mainly more camping applications. And they come with collapsible solar panels. Just wanted to introduce this and not skirt around this but the options for the Solarize program are going to be much less hands-on. This is going to be something you’re going to pick up, carry around, it’s going to be very hands-on and really only good for very specific applications.
You might be familiar with more mainstream centralized power backup solutions, such as the Tesla power wall – very industry leading here, the sun power. There’s also a sun power product that is available through our program. Again, the difference here is that these batteries are going to be wired into your home and wired into your solar system so that in the case of a power outage, this is going to be seamless. It’s going to automatically come on and power your home. In addition to operating when the power goes down, these batteries are going to cycle on a daily basis so that they will get charged up with electricity every day. Then in the evening, again, when the power is most expensive, these will turn on and charge a portion of their charge power into your home, so that you are avoiding those kilowatt hours.
Batteries: Potential Benefits
The benefits of getting one of these load shifting batteries, or one of these cycling batteries is that you’re going to have power when the grid goes down. It’s going to happen automatically.
That idea of load shifting I brought up – avoiding the most expensive electricity and also the dirtiest electricity. You will be storing your clean renewable electricity from your solar panels and then using that same electricity in the evening after the sun has gone down.
There’s also some fantastic regional grid benefits. It’s a really forward thinking way to support the grid and the state’s climate goals. In the evening, when the sun just goes down, it’s not just your solar system that stops producing, but it’s all the solar throughout the entire state. By being more resilient in your home, you are able to reduce your stress on the grid.
Batteries: How much will they cost?
From a price perspective, these technologies are also eligible for the federal 26% tax credit, or 22% for next year. There’s also an additional incentive. I am sorry about the acronym here, but this stands for Self Generation Incentive Program. This incentive is available from the state and can be applied to the batteries that are available through this program as long as they are again cycling on a regular basis.
There’s some numbers in front of you. We’re looking at a really quick example here, a Tesla power wall, through our program would be in the neighborhood of $15,000. You’re looking at a federal tax credit of close to $4,000. This is a real estimate of the SGIP. At the end of the day closer to a $9,000 investment.
All right. Also, if there are any folks on this webinar that live in a high fire zone and our medical baseline customers, please do follow up with one of our installer partners here because there are special incentives through that SGIP, self generation incentive program that mean free batteries for this specific class of customer.
If you’re thinking, yes, these batteries sound wonderful for me, there are a few things that you want to think through. First of all, how big of a battery do you really need? Do you really want your whole house backed up and in an outage? Or are you really looking for a few critical loads.
The electricians with these solar companies can help you think through and plan for that connection. You also want to think through where you want to pop the battery. Many people put these inside, but in some cases, they can be mounted on the outside of the home.
Whether you already have solar or not through the Solarize program, it doesn’t matter if you have solar or not before the battery aspect of our offering. And then quickly, will you participate in demand response programs. What does demand response mean? It’s basically a way for our utilities to ask customers in the region to reduce their demand on the grid when there is an especially high usage on the grid.
CPA’s Power Response Program
Through the Clean Power Alliance, they have offerings for folks that have the type of batteries that we’ve just discussed, or who have smart thermostats. Basically, it’s a program that you enroll in. And when you get alerts saying “now do it now” you can say “now do it now” means it’s a an energy saving event. This would be something you can opt into doing saying, Yes, I will reduce my home’s draw on the grid by turning on my battery. That just means that your battery will start powering your home, rather than drawing electricity from the grid. This is a way to get fairly modest compensation, but it’s a really great way to participate in. in reducing the demand on the grid. Again, the utility will or CPA will call on you, when there’s especially high demand on the grid, you get a notification, you can decide whether or not to modulate your energy, and then you get paid for participating in the program. It’s about $100 after enrollment, and then up to $100 per year.
Everyone’s doing great. Thank you for your attention. You get to listen to someone else talk now.
Case Study: Kent Bullard
I’m very pleased to introduce a member of the Ventura County community, Kent Bullard, who is a proud owner of a solar system of battery and electric vehicles. So can you tell us about your experience with these technologies?
Kent Bullard, Solar and EV Owner: I first got introduced to these solar photovoltaics in 1983, when I was living on Anacapa Island, and I just kept working with the National Park Service putting solar in. So as a result in my house on the mainland, I put solar on in the early 90s. And I’ve lived with solar ever since then. I’ve changed houses, but it’s one of those things that once you get into it, it’s the right thing to do, it can be done. And it saves you a dramatic amount of money over the course of time, much more money than you’d ever earn if you invested the same amount in a CD now.
Our current solar system I installed 10 years ago, when we moved to this house; I actively sought out a house with a west southwest facing roof – we’re off of Kimball. Just a little inside of Kimball. So we’re right on this sort of the edge of the fog line. And we get a good afternoon sun onto our solar panels. Near when we got the solar, we started buying electric cars. We’re down to two now so you know it’s not that bad. But with Kathy’s commute up to Thousand Oaks using the Leaf originally, without incorporating the savings for driving a vehicle, the simple payback on our solar system would have been about 10.7 years. But in the case of commuting every day to work in Thousand Oaks, deferring that cost with the solar electricity – because we generate 100% of electricity for our home plus charging the cars – we save about $2500 a year and apply that simple payback in our solar systems. We were paid back in about four years. And so we’ve been running free for the last six years.
Solar is very doable. I have a 4.2 kilowatt system. I’m in Ventura. We do not have air conditioning, we do not have a hot tub. But we got two electric cars that I drive around all the time. I’m charging at home over 96% of the time. I’m driving on sunshine.
My solar system bounded the inverter in the garage and a sub panel and about a year and a half ago, I decided to take the plunge and go to a battery. We got a single battery. It has about 13 kilowatts of energy storage, which is enough to run our house for a day. The key thing with the solar battery is without the battery you lose power and the inverters kick off. In this case, you lose grid power, the gateway with the Tesla system will keep the house running on the battery and provide power. Then the next day when the sun comes up the inverter does come on because it sees a grid identical power through the gateway and the panels come up and continue to recharge the battery. And so you can run on a virtually continuous basis depending upon what your load is and what your battery capacity is, as long as Edison is designed to shut power off. The one complication I had was, previously, I installed a level two car charger in my garage. And as a result, if I wanted to charge my cars on the Tesla battery and the solar, I might have needed to add a second battery. So my car charger is on my utility side of my battery. But I do have a 110 volt outlet that’s dedicated for car charging. I can trickle charge my cars too if I need to. So it all works out.
I would prefer not to get into extended test period with Edison, but it could well happen, and we’re still going to be able to drive, we’re still going to be able to do everything we want, I’m still going to be able to watch TV still gonna be able to get on the internet, I’m still gonna have my porch light turned on in the front. I annoy the neighbors because they don’t. That’s an important factor.
And, again, with the savings, for the past six years, we’ve been running free. Actually Edison charges you $10 a month to be connected. But I do get a rebate from Edison. They paid a whopping three and a half cents per kW last year. And I got a rebate check for $76. That reduces my monthly payment to about five bucks a month for electricity. It’s one of those things that makes total sense. If you got the house, you know, people would put solar on, and they think all life is great. And then next thing you know, they’re dipping their toe in the water and they got an electric car, and then they get a battery. And then they start talking about, you know, beyond beef and stuff like that they start drinking the Kool Aid a lot, but it’s pretty easy to adopt a green lifestyle using solar to start off. That’s it.
April Price, CEC: Great. Thank you so much, Ken. You brought up something that other people have brought up in the Q & A: you mentioned being paid for your excess solar production.
I’d just like to clarify. You know, I walked through an example of net energy metering and the fact that you do get credits based on the value of electricity when it’s produced. But in Ken’s example, he actually produces on net at the end of the year, more electricity than he uses. And so that’s what we’re referring to. When you’re getting that check in the mail, CPA will send you a check for about three to four cents per kilowatt hour based on a wholesale rate of that excess electricity.
Kent Bullard, Solar and EV Owner: But it makes absolutely no sense to try and put a bigger solar system on at the cost to generate three cents a kW.
And also when you apply for the rebate with the California solar energy rebate program, they look at your existing electric bill. And this is a problem when you want to add an electric car – it’d be another load you don’t show yet. But they will not rebate amounts greater than 110% of your existing history. The 10% is allowed for foggy days and things like that, but they’re not going to give you a 10 kW system for a four kW load so you can generate three sets of kW. They’re going to take that same money and apply it to another solar system for another person for another person’s benefit. They’re not in the solar fiscal generation business. They’re in the solar application business.
April Price, CEC: Okay. Great. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’d like to invite our solar installers online to answer a few more questions. So from California Solar Electric, we have Cam Campbell. And from Sespe Power Solutions we have Ish Goldstein. Okay, Ish.
So, I will ask a couple of questions from the audience. Maybe you want to take this first one. I brought up these optimizers as compared to micro inverters. Can you walk through maybe your suggestion for customers and that consideration?
Ish Goldstein, Sespe Power: Yeah, almost exclusively, we recommend microinverters. They are much better technology. They have a 25 year warranty. And what optimizers are is they’re taking sort of a string inverter, which is, for the most part outdated, and they’re trying to make it like a micro inverter system. What they’re doing is adding more parts to make something like a more contemporary system. There’s room for more failure, there’s room for install issues, there’s room for more warranty issues. Furthermore, on string inverter systems, like solar engine optimizers, your warranty is a 12 year warranty. And they are typically going to go out within that period.
Man, when your inverter goes out, the whole system’s down, if you’re not used to paying an electrical bill, you may all of a sudden have a $1200 bill at the end of your true up that you forgot about.
We’ve got a 15 panel system and one micro inverter goes down, that’s one 15th of your system. Better yet, both shops we have per panel monitoring. So we know where that inverter is on your roof. And we are alerted of it. We’re not always catching it, you know, every day, obviously. But it makes for much more savings over time.
April Price, CEC: Great. Thanks. We also have some questions about the maintenance of solar panels and solar systems in general.
Cam, will you speak to the best of maintaining solar, a solar system and speak to the workmanship warranty? And then also the cleaning of the panels and the company or the manufacturer warranties as well.
Cam Campbell, Solar Electric: Yeah. Basically, the maintenance is very simple, because they’re very robust and long lasting systems: it’s to keep the panels clean. And in most areas, they don’t get too dirty, unless you’re in a really dusty area. So you can have window cleaners and we can suggest somebody to come out and clean them and keep them clean. As far as workmanship goes, we have a 10 year on our workmanship. And obviously we cover anything that comes in under the 25 year warranty on the equipment. There’s also warranties on the roof, etc, depending on what you’re doing.
But the maintenance is basically not a whole lot just keeping them clean, just keeping track, which we do through monitoring of how each system is doing. And it’s pretty as simple as that.
April Price, CEC: Great.
Cam Campbell, Solar Electric: I would agree with Eisch on the micro inverters. Yeah.
April Price, CEC: Great. And I’m having a few questions from the audience about the process here. If you need to jump off soon, you can sign up for this program at solarizeventura.org and from that point, we connect you with one or both of the installers for no obligation free quotes from these installers and also provide some coaching for you.
All right, so, question. Ish, you want to just talk to an install on a flat roof?
Ish Goldstein, Sespe Power: Sure, so on a flat roof, depending on what type of roofing material – if it’s rolled comp, or sometimes there’s membrane roofing, we want to ensure the quality of the roof. With rolled comp there is in both we’re doing what’s called a torch down process. That way we can ensure that the waterproofing is done properly. And we’re also typically going to look at or at least compare tilting the panels versus keeping them flat. Some flat roofs can have a minimal slope. Some people for aesthetics don’t want the panels tilted but typically tilting them west or south which does have a little bit of extra cost into it is going to have them run more productively.
April Price, CEC: Great, thanks. And let’s see Cam, can you speak to the timeline of getting solar installed and when you can expect to have everything signed up and be eligible for the tax credit.
Cam Campbell, Solar Electric: Yeah, it’s kind of a moving target right now, because of COVID. And there is a slowdown at the AHJs and in other words in the cities, counties and any permitting process that goes on. We’re looking at, hopefully 60 days, but 90 days out.
Also, this time of year, people are trying to get systems in. There’s always going to be a lot of people clamoring to get things in by the end of the tax year. So we are equipped to get as many as we can in but we are being slowed down at the moment, honestly, by AHJs and the permitting process.
April Price, CEC: Okay. And Ish, would you say the same for Sespe?
Ish Goldstein, Sespe Power: Yeah, as Cam said, there are their county delays. You know, today, for instance, for Agoura Hills, they’re using one inspector for two cities.
Depending on the install, some we may be able to get to a bit quicker. Know that batteries, you’re going to be looking at for Tesla’s supply issues, stalls. We can’t get the batteries and are probably booked through that month at the moment.
April Price, CEC: Okay, great. Thanks for that reminder. Let’s see, we had a question about, kind of how much the homeowner has control about when to run the battery. And how much the utility has control over that.
Either one of you want to jump in on that one?
Cam Campbell, Solar Electric: Yeah, I can, I can speak to that a little bit. Basically, the homeowner has some control over, most of the control over, the battery and when it discharges, etc.
Now, if you receive the SGIP, which basically is not literally for battery backup, but it’s for grid support system, you have to have that available to the grid every day, and a certain amount of that has to be discharged to the grid in order to receive that rebate. If you don’t have that rebate, then you can pretty much run it the way you want. The one I have backed into the grid when it needs to automatically, we’ll back up when the power goes down. I’m not in a time of use situation. So I don’t have a time for the end of the day versus the beginning of the day, because I’m still in TOU one. But you can automatically set it up to do all those kinds of things. You can do it for self consumption, when there’s an event that automatically tells you that there may be a shutdown because of when the event or something like that, and it’ll switch over to that. So it’s pretty seamless, actually.
April Price, CEC: And one last question for you, Ish. Can you speak to the benefits of mounting a battery inside or outside of a garage or a home?
Ish Goldstein, Sespe Power: I mean, the warranties are 10 year warranties. NEMA 3, which is outdoors. So there are plenty of batteries going in the desert here.
You know, anecdotally and maybe Cam can speak to this, I mean, I do think the batteries perform better if they’re not on a south facing wall outside blaring in the sunlight. But I don’t have any specific data on that.
Cam Campbell, Solar Electric: Well, anything that’s in direct sunlight or in heat is going to perform less well. And so we don’t recommend installing in the sun, but they could be done either outside or inside. And both our battery systems that we do or are NEMA rated. So.
April Price, CEC: Great. Thank you both. I need to wrap things up here. Appreciate your expertise and they can answer all of your questions when you meet with them in person.
And just to remind folks on this webinar of next steps, please do visit solarizeventura.org to sign up for this program and to get you in touch with these fantastic installers. And for personalized support from myself and my colleague, Audrey.
I also want to thank our partners in this program: City of Cambria, City of Ventura, the City of Thousand Oaks and the County of Ventura. And finally, my organization, the community Environmental Council. We were happy to be named a 2020 California Nonprofit of the Year. We work to reduce impacts of climate change locally.
So I’d like to thank everyone for your attendance and participation. Here’s next steps, or you can call us at 805-335-1810. Have a wonderful rest of your day and stay healthy. Stay safe.