Berkeley, California, is providing a new path toward financing renewable energy programs, providing financing for individual home owner’s solar power systems. Well, not far from Berkeley, Marin County is providing a different path toward making solar systems more accessible to its citizens. In this case, however, the County government is (at most) a follower rather than leader in the process.
As described by the San Francisco Chronicle,
A Bay Area grandmother’s grassroots campaign to lower the cost of solar power through a community bulk-purchase plan has reaped a bigger bonanza than she dreamed: an offer by a Marin solar company to provide discounted installations for every resident and business in the county.
SPG Solar Inc now has an offer on the table for delivering systems at about 15% below normal retail associated with a mass buy in the county.
“ The allure of solar energy as a green alternative at a discounted price has struck a responsive chord in the community,” said Lisa Max [the grandmother]. “The response here has been overwhelmingly positive. We have the opportunity to do a good thing and save money for all of the participants. I now believe that it is possible to sign up as many as 1,000 homeowners.”
This has been a three-year process for Max, who rates a real driving force for Go Solar Marin. She saw other successful large buy efforts …
Max figures there is strength – and leverage – in numbers. She was inspired by successful group solar projects involving more than 200 homes in the Bay Area. She started contacting local homeowners associations and solar installers
Now, the local government has made the process less expensive by cutting the permit costs from $650 to $140. And, well, we might hope that the local inspectors are up on the ins and outs of solar pv, helping rather than hindering the installation process.
Now, Max could be a poster child (or grandmother) of individual action (even ‘selfish’ action) having larger impact.
“I’m from New York – I never buy retail,” Max said. So she thought of doing what a group of 66 households in Portola Valley did last year – buy discounted solar installations through a community purchase plan.
What was she seeking to do?
to not only help the environment but also cut her monthly electricity bill of $350.
What are the system costs?
The price for a 3-kilowatt system for an average home would be $23,820, which could be reduced to $15,220 under the state’s $2.20-per-watt rebate program and the federal tax credit of $2,000.
Now, Max is estimating that, with the discounted price, she will “recoup the cost of a 5-kilowatt system in seven years, instead of what would have been 10 years under normal retail prices.” (Note that, with the discounted retail prices, California’s $2.20 per watt cut the cost by 25% on a 3 kilowatt system (and, well, likely a somewhat higher percent on a 5 kw system).
How many people did Max motivate to come to the table for this system?
And, well, just how many more would be able to come to the table if there were upfront, low-cost financing like that will be coming from Berkeley?