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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 4:32 pm | Fair 55º


California Solar Electric Says New Panels Shine as Income-Producing Assets

Technology advances include combinations of electrical, thermal power to help roll back utility bills

Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing industries in California. Just ask Ojai-based California Solar Electric, which has seen steady expansion over the past eight years.

“We almost double our business and hire one or two people every year,” CSE founder Don Campbell said.

California Solar Electric, which also has a Santa Barbara office, provides residential and commercial solar electric systems throughout the Central Coast. Campbell attributed high customer satisfaction and client referrals to his company’s growth.

“We have a good track record and a large portfolio,” he said. “It’s important to know who your installers are and we are one of the best out there.”

State-mandated tax advantages, rebate incentives, increasing electricity costs and higher manufacturing volumes have driven consumer demand up and the technology’s price down, Campbell said.

“The amount of all these put together has created a big demand for solar, as well as the worldwide market that has grown tremendously,” he said. “It’s one of fastest-growing industries in the world.”

The California Solar Initiative pays solar consumers an incentive based on the volume of solar megawatts within each service territory. Although residential installations are the “bread and butter” of the business, incentives like the CSI has piqued commercial interest, Campbell said.

“Now commercial is the big thing, especially in PG&E territory because the technology allows large-scale projects,” he said.

California Solar Electric is one of the first companies to offer Echo Solar Systems, which combine electrical and thermal power.

“It captures the thermal energy from panels exposed to the sun and uses it to heat air and water and provide electricity,” said CSE’s Aaron Luckett, adding that it mechanically ventilates through fresh-air exchanges to heat and cool houses.

Aside from cost, aesthetic appeal is one of the typical barriers to solar technology. CSE and its 20-member team can coordinate the installation of roof or ground systems that use less space and look good, Campbell said.

“This is an income-producing asset, unlike a TV or computer that loses its value really quickly,” Luckett said. “People will say they will wait until it gets cheaper but in the meantime you put $10,000 into renting electricity.”

CSE customer Bim Goddard said it’s an investment that will pay dividends.

“When you figure the net cost to you after the rebates it’s really a good deal,” he said. “You can’t find that kind of place to put your money now where you’re going to get that kind of payback.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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