• Suresh Venkatraman

Drought’s Silver Lining: Solar Panels Look Hotter Than Ever

Homeowner Joseph Adler had been in his Cuesta Drive home for a year, when he and his wife toyed with the idea of doing more than just a “standard” energy upgrade of better insulation and installing LED lights. With double pane windows already in place, along with a good furnace, solar panels seemed like the way to go.

They chose a company with a unique business model: one that uses volunteers, not employees, for actual installation. The non-profit company, SunWork, uses professional staff for planning, getting permits and managing all aspects of the installation. In addition, a team of volunteers works on the installations.

Project manager, Matt Thompson, on the left, with the two volunteers, Hamid Saadat and Tom Kabat. Photo credit: Mike Balma

Who are these volunteers? Men and women with better than average mechanical skills who either want on-the-job training, are curious about the process or simply want to be involved with an environmentally conscious company.  Thus, SunWork, a non-profit that works on small systems with an average electric bill of under $130 per month, can pass those savings through to their customers.

According to Joseph, his cost was about $3/watt, compared to a more typical price of $4.50/watt.  After the tax credits, Joseph’s cost was closer to $2/watt.  Based on his family’s energy consumption, that means he will have free energy in just 6 years, paying only the PG&E grid connection fee of <$5/month, which is why he insists, “It is irresponsible not to put in solar panels in this area”.

Mike Balma, Development Director of SunWork noted, “We have installed 15 solar systems in Los Altos with more on the way.  Los Altos now has the highest number of installations for us.  We recently completed our 100th system and we appreciate the local support from our volunteers and from homeowners in moving to a renewable energy future.”

If you have sun on your roof, what are you waiting for? We may have a dearth of water, but the sun is still coming on strong and that translates to savings you can literally bank on.

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