“Driving on Sunshine” is a series about people who are using grid-tied solar panels on their homes to power their electric vehicles. More plug-in vehicles are entering the market at competitive prices, including low monthly leases starting at $199/month. In addition, more people are able to afford home solar systems thanks to solar leasing programs and group-purchasing options, such as CEC’s Solarize program.
Los Alamos, CA
|Type of Electric Vehicle||Ford Focus Electric|
|Leased or Purchased||Leased|
|Size of Solar Array||7 kW DC
(28 Canadian Solar 250 W panels & Enphase microinverters)
|Leased or Purchased||Purchased|
|CEC Solarize Participant||Yes|
Tim Foraker knows numbers. A retired, Registered Investment Advisor, Tim is well-versed in the language of investments, returns, and financial risk. After a nephew in Livermore informed Tim about the tremendous monthly savings he was seeing after going solar, a light switched on in Tim’s head. Faced with monthly electric bills around $200 for his Los Alamos home, solar could make financial sense for him and his wife, Joy.
However, it wasn’t until Tim heard about the Solarize Santa Ynez Valley program that he seriously began to look into solar power and electric vehicles. Tim attended a Solarize workshop put on by the Community Environmental Council and the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance in April, 2013. After hearing the presentation, he immediately signed up for the Solarize program. The next day he had an appointment with a solar consultant from Solarponics Energy Systems.
Todd Burnett, an Energy Analyst at Solarponics recalls his first meeting with Tim, “I’ve never met a homeowner who was so well prepared.” Tim arrived with spreadsheets of his historic electrical usage and had even calculated the charging requirements for the electric vehicles he was considering. Todd continues, “Tim basically designed his system himself. He knew how much electricity he would need to generate and had even mapped out where on his roof the panels would be situated.”
Tim approached his financial analysis of combining solar and an EV with the same attention to detail. After learning the discounted pricing offered through the Solarize Santa Ynez Program, he began mapping out his savings in both electrical and gasoline bills. Here are his calculations
|Annual savings in PG&E bills:||$2,100|
|Annual savings in gasoline bills:||$2,500|
|Total Annual Savings:||$4,600|
|Net cost of 7.0 kW solar array through CEC’s Solarize:||$21,293|
|Payback period:||4.62 years|
After crunching the numbers, Tim describes, “Our incentive to go solar was purely a financial one. I calculated that my investment in solar and switching to an EV would pay for itself in less than five years.” Tim opted for a 3-year lease on an all-electric Ford Fusion which he helped pay for with the sale of Joy’s Lexus LS 400 which had been costing $2,500 a year in gasoline alone.
Tim and Joy calculated that their annual rate of return from switching to solar and an EV is better than 20 percent. Given the warranties and production guarantees of the panels, Tim sees the decision to go solar as a “risk-free investment—and in this day and age, there are no risk-free investments, particularly one with a 20% annual return!”
Since going solar, Tim has been a great advocate for solar power and driving on sunshine, educating his friends and family and referring them to CEC’s Solarize programs. When asked how he feels about “driving on sunshine,” the Tim’s inner financial professional shines through. “I am delighted with this investment!”