When we have a project that includes a solar power system, we turn to Ron Goad from Solcon Solar. He has been installing solar power systems in the Santa Cruz area for over 30 years, including projects at the Seacliff Inn and the O’Neill Sea Odyssey offices, among others. We got his take on some common questions to consider when looking to add solar power for your home or business.
What are some of the top reasons homeowners in the Santa Cruz area turn to Solar for their power needs?
There’s a great attitude in Santa Cruz when it comes to Solar Power. The community tends to be environmentally conscious and they look at solar as an effective approach to get off coal and gas. Lower consumption customers tend to turn to solar because of these environmental benefits. Higher consumption customers can save a lot of money and get a tax credit for installing solar panels, so for them it’s often about the bottom line.
Who are good candidates for having solar power for their homes?
In terms of saving money, anyone with an electric bill that’s $80 and above is a good candidate for solar; however, for many homeowners, going green is their top priority. I’ve had clients with $60 bills that are set on going solar because they want to start generating clean energy. Who am I to turn them away?
In particular, Homeowners with a $100 bill or higher can really benefit from Solar. PG&E charges on a tiered system, meaning you pay more per kilowatt the more energy you use. Because of the tiered system, it’s much more advantageous for high-spenders to cut out high cost-per-kilowatt energy from their bill. There are situations where you can cut 70-80% of your bill by just producing 50% of your power through solar.
What do you enjoy about your job?
The sun is essentially fuel, and nobody owns sunlight. Once your panels are in, you can generate the energy you need from this open resource without buying fuel. I think that’s a pretty big deal. In addition, the Santa Cruz area is very well-equipped for solar energy because we get great exposure in this area. Also, a lot of activity in the solar industry happens just over the hill in the Silicon Valley, so we’re in close proximity to a lot of the breakthroughs in technology and equipment.
What is your experience in Solar?
I’ve been installing solar since 1985. At that time I mostly was installing off-grid systems for remote homes until about 1999. At that time, PG&E started to allow grid-tied systems, which allows homeowners to contribute to the overall power consumption of the grid, in addition to the energy used to power their homes. Nowadays, most installations are grid-tied systems, which help the community as a whole generate more clean energy.
What is the step-by-step process of an install?
Typically an install takes about 4-5 weeks from initial contact to the day the system is generating energy. I start with an initial site survey, where I go to the house and make sure they have good exposure throughout the year. We consider other factors, like the quality of the roof. Since the systems last for 15-20 years, we want to make sure we have a roof in place that will last that long as well. During this initial site survey, we also discuss customer preferences. The next step is to design a system, which includes an estimate and a plan. Once a customer is on board and ready, we then submit a building permit, which can take 2-3 weeks with the city or county. After we acquire the permit, we then install the system, which can take 4-5 days. The final day of installation is an inspection day when a city or county employee will come out to sign off on the new system.
How does a completed solar project affect someone’s day-to-day lives?
People feel empowered. Once they see that meter go backwards, they’re ecstatic. Customers tell me that they feel that they’ve got control over this aspect of their lives. They’ll send me videos over email of the meter going backwards. It’s a big hit.