“The program is exciting. It’s perfect for people who want to do the right thing but need a little hand-holding,” Emmett said. “(The CEC) made it easy for me and made the process transparent and efficient.”
Solarize Santa Barbara is a group-purchasing discount program for South County homeowners who want to go solar. Residents will be able to purchase solar at a discounted price from SunPacific Solar Electric Inc. and REC Solar from May 1 through July.
“We’re doing this program to help people see that solar is accessible,” said Megan Birney, a renewable energy specialist for the CEC. “It can be a little bit harrowing figuring out which company and how to install the panels, and that’s what we’re trying to do, simplify the process.”
The California Solar Initiative pays solar consumers an incentive based on system performance. The incentives are either an upfront lump-sum payment based on expected performance or a monthly payment based on actual performance over five years, according to the CSI website. The rebates automatically decline in “steps” based on the volume of solar megawatts within each service territory.
The goal of President Barack Obama’s SunShot Initiative would cut the cost of industrial solar power by about 75 percent, to $1 per watt by the end of the decade, making it competitive with other energy sources on a utility without subsidy.
SunPacific sales manager Dan Knapp said support on a federal level helps.
“The motivation behind it was so that as the rebate slowly disappears, the cost of solar goes down with it,” Knapp said.
Emmett installed his system to cover all of his energy consumption. During the day, the energy the system generates will go back into the grid. He said the system, which took about four days to install, negates his energy bill.
“I wanted to do solar because it’s an amazing resource that we largely don’t use,” he said. “I like not paying electric bills, not dependent on fossil-based energy. From a security standpoint, if the world spins out of control, I have locally produced power, and I love the fact that it’s clean and so many things that lead from it.”
Emmett’s car, appliances and spa are all solar-powered.
“These things we feel guilty about, now I can feel like I can live life but do it on sunshine,” he said.
Although the scope of Solarize Santa Barbara initially will cater to residential units, it may expand to commercial companies based on the program’s success, Birney said. The program also will support local businesses that install and maintain the service.
“It has grown from residential roots, but as it becomes more affordable, commercial will pay more attention,” Knapp said. “It definitely started in residential, but in the last six months we’ve been bidding on a lot of commercial stuff.”
Paying off a solar system often takes about 10 years, Birney said, comparing it with a monthly or upfront investment on a car.
“Systems last 25 years, so if you pay for mall your electricity in eight years, then you have 10 to 15 years of free electricity — unlike your car, which no longer works after 15 years,” she said.
If someone is a Tier 1 or Tier 5 energy consumer, Knapp said the investment still makes sense through the support of municipalities and support groups such as the CEC.
“It’s the kind of thing where someone looks at their neighbor’s bills and realizes how much they aren’t paying on electric,” he said. “People used to invest strictly because they wanted to be green. Now they look at the numbers and it doesn’t make sense to not do it.”
“How can you not use a day like today to harness the sun’s energy and get off the grid?” she said.
The CEC will host introductory workshops for residents to learn about energy efficiency, conservation, and solar energy:
» May 17, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Unitarian Society, 1535 Santa Barbara St. in Santa Barbara
» June 1, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Carpinteria Women’s Club, 1059 Vallecito Road in Carpinteria
» June 7, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Goleta Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave. in Goleta
» July 17, at CEC’s Solar SUNday, Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta del Sol