The prevalence of solar energy is going to hit the Valley in a big way in the next few months as the seven schools in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District embark on installations that will save the district millions of dollars over the years. As these installations come to light – no pun intended – The Sun decided it was the perfect opportunity to educate readers on the costs involved in residential solar. How many of us have considered making the switch but are deterred from further investigation due to uncertainty about the cost? To help clear the air, we enlisted the help of Valley local Anthony Abate of Real Goods Solar to illuminate for homeowners just how cost efficient going solar can be.
Low voltage user – the Purdom family
Starting with myself, and my family as solar guinea pigs, I had Anthony come out to my home for an evaluation and subsequent estimate. Using a combination of house measurements, satellite images and last year’s PG&E readings, Anthony put together a proposal that was astonishingly cost effective. Breaking the proposal into sections, it was easy to see the 25-year financial analysis, the cost breakdown and the system description (see sidebar). The net cost – for me, the bottom line – was just $8,228 after receiving credits from both the state of California and the federal government.
It should be noted that, in my home, we rarely reach PG&E’s costly “Tier 3,” which dings consumers for the highest rate of $0.29 per kilowatt hour. Typically, our smallish household of three is confined to usage in Tier 1, billed at the more reasonable rate of $0.12/kWH.
High user – the Cline family
Since my family’s usage was so low, I decided to recruit some friends to give a more accurate picture of what a larger family could expect from moving to solar – both the benefits and the associated costs. I chose Matt and Erin Cline who, with their three daughters, live in a 2400 square foot house off of lower Broadway. The Cline’s have a pool (which is heated by solar panels on the roof of the home) and a private well – both of which require pumps – and power – to keep running. They also run a home-based business, which means they use more power throughout the day than people who work in an offsite office, although Erin is very conscientious, turning off lights and running appliances like the washer, drier and dishwasher during PG&E’s recommended hours of before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m.
Regardless of conservation, the Cline’s use a lot of power – almost five times what we use in the Purdom household. Their meter typically runs in Tiers 4 and 5 – at a whopping $0.40 per kWh, occasionally dipping into Tier 3 at $0.29 and very rarely into the less costly Tiers 1 and 2. Their annual pre-solar PG&E bill runs over $5000 while mine pales in comparison at around $975. The benefits of going solar for this household are obviously monetary however, the family’s post-solar carbon reductions over 25 years would be equivalent to planting 8,352 trees, powering a small car for 707,797 miles or traveling 430,515 miles by air.
Because they’ve already installed solar on their home’s roof to heat the pool, the Clines have opted for a ground mount system at the back of their property. Running lines from the panels to the home will add some cost to the installation but these homeowners want to keep the aesthetics of their pristine back yard in tact so the necessary trenching and cost of materials aren’t much of an issue. Bottom line, the net cost of solar for this family will run $34,166 after rebates and tax credits. Not a bad investment considering it will eliminate their PG&E bill completely and save an incredible $235,934 over the 25-year lifetime of the system.
About Real Goods Solar
Since 1978, Real Goods Solar has led the sustainable living market through sales, education and installations of solar and other renewable energy products. For 30 years, the company has been a leading installer for residential and commercial projects, providing turn-key solar solutions that include financial analysis, full service design, installation, permitting, deployment and rebate paperwork.
Through a partnership with SunRun, Real Goods offers a variety of ways to pay for a solar installation. With a nod to the success of the power purchase agreement (PPA) model in commercial solar, SunRun offers homeowners the option of purchasing solar energy the same way businesses have for years, by purchasing power instead of panels.
For more information about options visit: realgoodssolar.com and sunrunhome.com respectively.