A local nonprofit is partnering with area businesses to offer discounted solar electric systems this summer.
The Community Environmental Council this week announced the launch of Solarize Santa Barbara, a group-purchasing program for residential solar electric systems that offers discounts and advice to homeowners.
Gathered on the back patio of Allen Energy, a small group heard the details laid out by CEC program manager Jefferson Litten.
The CEC, a nonprofit that formed in the wake of the 1969 oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel, has always been about forming solutions to the area's environmental challenges, Litten said.
Ten years ago, the group shifted its focus to deal directly with issues of energy and climate change. Part of that has been helping people adopt solar power, and the group has worked with homeowners and businesses to help them switch to solar.
The Solarize Santa Barbara program offers assistance and a streamlined process to local homeowners in Gaviota, Goleta, Santa Barbara and Montecito. The program also finds homeowners a discounted price for solar systems from local, vetted installers.
Since the program's inception, 260 local homeowners have installed solar electrical systems in their homes.
Installers REC Solar and Allen Energy are program partners that will offer a discounted price to local residents who sign up by Aug. 16.
Karl Hutterer, emeritus director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, signed up for the program in 2012, and said that his annual electric bill has dropped from $900 to $120 since switching to solar.
"It made everything so simple," he said of the program. "I couldn't be happier."
Mayor Helene Schneider was also on hand, and said the city has worked solar energy into its operations, including at Fire Station 2, at 819 Cacique St., which was outfitted with solar panels.
The city is working to make it "as smooth as possible" for homeowners to learn about permits, she said.
As part of the program, the CEC will also be hosting free educational workshops for homeowners. They will be held June 3 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara's Jefferson Hall, at 1535 Santa Barbara St.; June 25 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Goleta Valley Community Center, at 5679 Hollister Avenue; and July 30 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Public Library's Faulkner Gallery at 40 E. Anapamu St.
Homeowners can get more information about Solarize Santa Barbara on the organization's website, its Facebook page or calling 805.963.0583, extension 105.
Litten said that residents of Carpinteria Valley and Summerland can apply through Solarize Carpinteria Valley, a concurrent program that CEC is running in partnership with the Carpinteria Valley Association.
More info about Solarize Carpinteria Valley and upcoming homeowner workshops is available at SolarizeCarpinteria.org.