Video Home Solar Simplified

HelioPower’s home solar financing partner, SunRun, has a cool new video to help explain home solar.  Check it out:

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Sales Tactics – The Ugly Side of Solar

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In the Ugly Side of Solar series I’ve covered shoddy solar power installations, ugly installations, andshaded installations.  Part four covers something more insidious and isperhaps the ugliest side of all. Part four is about the growing trend of less than professional sales tactics in the solar power industry.

“Sales Tactics” details a disturbing recent trend, the employ ofunprofessional, and what I would deem, unscrupulous, sales and businesspractices. You know the kind I mean. You’ve seen the results of thisapproach to business on the 10 o’clock news.  The headlines paint thestories:  the contractor who takes a huge deposit and doesn’t completethe work; and/or does a horrible job after a protracted and nightmarishexperience, and/or charges the customer twice as much as a reputablecontractor to perform the same job in the name of ‘superior service’ orsome other excuse while performing a less than stellar installation.

Ugly Solar part four is an exposé of some of the oldest and mostpopular tricks in home selling tactics now being applied to solar.Before you say, “I’m too smart to fall for any of those tricks,” pleaseread on.  Sadly I see and hear of people falling for these tricks everyday as some new entrants into the industry bring them to the solarbusiness. These tactics are used to endear and close deals at pricessignificantly higher than those offered in the competitive marketplaceand to intimidate those who try to cancel later.

I will illustrate how these tricks work through a parable I call ‘The Curious Case of the Chocolate Cake Close.’

Once there was a pleasant retired couple who wished to go solar. It’s possible that they became interested in solar after receiving a directmailer or perhaps speaking with a door-to-door canvasser. However ithappened, they invited a solar contractor into their home. The salesmanwas pleasant. He took photos with their dog (Trick #1: Make friends with the family dog. If the dog trusts you, the deal’s as good as inked).The salesman pitched his pitch. He told the couple he had alreadycontacted the utility and received their utility information andtherefore the system he was proposing would suit their needs perfectly(Trick #2: Without a signed third party authorization form, no oneexcept the customer can access his utility information, but most folksare unaware of this and will think you have an ‘in’ at the utility). The salesman completed his exciting solar pitch and then pressed for thesale. Unfortunately for the salesman, the couple wanted some more timeto think about it, so he created more time. He stuck around for the next five hours endearing himself to them (Trick #3: If you refuse to leaveon your own, customers will often acquiesce and sign a contract just toget you out of their house. Stay ten hours if you have to).

Throughout the five hour courtship, the salesman made multiple phonecalls to his manager. “Good news!” the salesman exclaimed, “If you letus put a sign in your yard my manager will knock $1,500 off your solarpower system!” “Even more good news, if you sign today we can give youan additional discount!”(Trick #4: The more phony calls you make to your manager the better. It gives you the appearance of advocating on behalf of the customer. Trick #5: hyper-inflated pricing makes discountingeasy!).  Feeling the deal (and his commission) slipping away, thesalesman tried a Hail Mary. “What’s your favorite dessert?” he asked.“We love chocolate cake,” the couple replied. “Great! I’ll be rightback,” the salesman announced, and much to the couple’s surprise, thesalesman went to the store and bought a chocolate cake. “What a niceman,” the couple thought, “he sure is a thoughtful fellow.”

The salesman returned a short while later with a chocolate cake(Trick #6: never underestimate the endearment forged by breaking breadwith someone). After enjoying some of the cake with the old couple, thesalesman inked the deal and went on his way with a $1,000 deposit and a$2,500 postdated progress payment (Trick #7: the more skin someone hasin the game, the less likely they are to cancel after they’ve come totheir senses. Of course, as you may know, in California collection ofthis second payment at the time of contract signing is illegal. Don’tlet that stop you though, just have your customer postdate the check tocover your tracks).

That would’ve been the end of the story in most cases (slick salesman gouges unwitting retirees), but this couple began to have buyer’sremorse after the transaction begin to sink in. Because they neverreceived a second bid, they wondered if they had gotten a good deal ontheir solar electric system. After several weeks of wondering,pondering, and evaluating their decision to go solar with the chocolatecake salesman, they decided to get a second opinion. What theydiscovered shocked them.

The second salesman arrived with little fanfare and no chocolate cake. Heperformed his site evaluation and presented his solar power systemproposal to the couple. The system was larger (by almost 1,000 watts);included an electrical service upgrade; and was $29,000 cheaper. Let mesay that again, the system was $29,000 cheaper. For many people, that’s a year’s salary.

They’d been had! How could that sweet salesman with his deliciouschocolate cake do this to them? They trusted him. Their dog trusted him. At this point, the old woman began to cry. She and her husband were soupset that they immediately canceled their contract with the firstsalesman and signed up for the far cheaper system with the secondsalesman.

Almost immediately, the first salesman began calling them at home inearnest saying, “I’ll see you in court! You’re on the hook for a 20%restocking fee! Do you really want to lose $8,000? You’re in for a nasty lawsuit now!” (Trick #8: there’s nothing like the threat of a lawsuitto get folks to see things your way). After rebuffing the chocolate cake salesman by phone multiple times, the couple thought they were free and clear, but they were wrong! Mr. Chocolate Cake himself came a knock,knock, knockin’ at their front door not 30 minutes later (Trick #9: ifthe threat of a lawsuit doesn’t work by phone, try it in person). Thecouple, visibly shaken and physically shaking, asked the secondsalesman, who was still at the house, to confront chocolate cake guy who suddenly wasn’t so sweet anymore. After an unpleasant and highlycharged exchange, chocolate cake guy was sent packin’. Salesman numbertwo, believing he had done a good thing by saving these retirees $29,000 on a 25% bigger solar panel system went on his way with contract inhand. Plus, he had the added privilege of singlehandedly dispatching the evil sales guy face-to-face, toe-to-toe.

Unfortunately though, no good deed goes unpunished as they say. Within 36 hours, theold couple canceled their contract with the second salesman. Why? Thethreats of lawsuits had intensified over the ensuing (pun intended)hours. Additionally, the first company offered to match the secondcompany’s price. That’s right. Miraculously, Company A found $29,000 of‘extra money’ in the job after the couple received a second bid andattempted to cancel (Trick #10: If all else fails, match thecompetitor’s price and offer to drop the lawsuit if the customer agreesto cease all communication with Company B).

Company B, now well aware of the underhanded sales techniques beingplied on the couple, calls the couple one last time to try to talk sense to them. “After what you’ve been through: price gouging; slimy salestactics; and threat of lawsuit would you recommend Company A to yourfriends, neighbors, or family?”

“No we wouldn’t,” the couple answers.

“If you wouldn’t recommend them,” salesman B continues, “why wouldyou still proceed with them while you still have a chance to get out inone piece?”

“We wouldn’t,” the couple replies, “But we’ve never been to court before, and we’re afraid of being sued.”

“Their legal case seems frivolous to me,” says salesman B, “Don’t let them strong arm you into doing something you don’t want to do. Is thissomeone you really want to do business with?”

With one last futile effort, the couple cancels with Company A, butthis time the cancelation lasts only 18 hours, as chocolate cake guyarrived in person the very next morning to defend the deal with hisvolatile combo of price reductions and lawsuits (Trick #11: Intimidation is a wonderful customer motivator).

I wish I could say that this parable was only that, but it’s a truestory based on actual events. In fact, further research on Company Auncovered a consistent pattern of price gouging and abuse. Pricesaveraging $13/DC watt are the norm for these slick operators. Since theaverage price of solar in California has fallen below $7/DC watt,Company A’s systems are overpriced by an average of 55%. In theretirees’ example, the difference was $29,000. That’s some expensivechocolate cake!

So how do you protect yourself from being suckered, then threatenedand abused when you call the conman on his con? Follow basic commonsense principles:

  1. Always get a second bid. Always, always, always!
  2. If you live in California check the solar company out the same way I did, in CSI’s public database: https://www.californiasolarstatistics.ca.gov/application/search/
    You can see how many installations a company’s done, in which cities,what types of equipment they sell, and even the prices they’re charging, plus a whole lot more!
  3. If you’re paying more than $7/DC watt, chances are you’ve been had,although some exceptions apply to ground mounted systems, reroofs,service upgrades, or specialized custom installation work. In any case,start asking some hard questions when the price exceeds this level.
  4. Remember, in California you have three business days to cancel acontract if you get cold feet later. If you sign on Friday, you haveuntil the following Wednesday at midnight.
  5. If a contractor collects more than $1,000 at contract signing, report them to the California State Licensing Board: www.cslb.ca.gov
  6. If a contractor threatens you with a lawsuit and you’ve done nothing but cancel your contract prior to work commencing, don’t capitulate —call a lawyer!
  7. If a contractor suddenly drops his price by tens of thousands ofdollars to keep your business, can this guy really be trusted to doquality work? Can he be trusted at all?
  8. If a salesman offers you chocolate cake, offer him the door.

If there is a silver lining here, it’s that the couple saved a pileof money in the end by engaging Company B. Whether they’ll end upgetting what they paid for we may never know. I’m sure the chocolatecake salesman still has a couple more tricks up his sleeve. What’s yourfavorite dessert?

You can reach Scott Gordon directly at SGordon@HelioPower.com

Scott Gordon

Vice President, Sales Residential, HelioPower

 

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Is Solar Right for You?

HelioPower Offers Upcoming Community Solar Events starting Tuesday, August 17

Are you curious if solar will help your family budget?  Maybe you’vegone solar and would like your friends and family to enjoy the samebenefits you are getting from solar? If yes is the answer for eitherquestion then we’d like to invite you to one of our upcoming solarcommunity events.

Our solar community events are designed to be no-pressure, informational style meetings.  They will give you, your friends and family members a chance to learn how solar works and if it can help you reduce oreliminate your electric bill.  As our utility bills continue to rise,freeing up the money spent on electricity can help your family’s budgetand return financial benefits for years to come.

Free community events will be conducted for solar information in San Diego, solar in Corona, solar in Redlands, solar in Valley Center and The Frontier Projects event for solar in Rancho Cucamonga. You can find out about the specific programs available in your regionand if solar can assist you in reducing or eliminating your risingelectric bill.

To reserve your seat at a solar community event near you click here or call us directly at 1 87-SOLAR-888.

One solar customer’s story

From the Needhams’ in Murrieta, HelioPower solar power customers since 2006: Over the past few years we have been seeing our energy bills rise asmuch as 30% annually with no end in sight. Having always had a passionfor energy conservation, we thought it was time to take action. When weheard about the state solar rebate that covers one third of the cost,the $2,000 federal tax credit (is now 30% no cap), and the instant increase in our property value… we figured that even at our age it was worth the investment.

After researching solar providers, we found HelioPower provided thebest solar panels on the market and offered the lowest price. Theinstallation was a treat for us. They were the most efficient andneatest installers we have ever seen in action. There was never any mess at the end of the day and it took a short 3 days to install. The panels blend nicely into our roof and if we did not brag about it so much, wedoubt our neighbors would ever notice.

About six weeks later we received our rebate check from the state.Our panels were turned on April 19th, 2006 and we have not paid forelectricity since. We LOVE to watch the meter run backward, especiallywith all the heat this past summer. We would recommend HelioPower toanyone interested in Solar Power.

Bill and Peggy Needham

Solar Home in Murrieta, CA

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Never Forget The Environment

Like most of my colleagues at HelioPower, I joined the solar industry because of my concern for our environment.  As a recreationaloutdoorsman, I appreciate the need to escape the city and spend time inour undeveloped wilderness areas as often as possible. The more Iunderstood the detrimental effects on both our environment and ourhealth from conventional energy production, the more I wanted to be apart of the solution! With it’s proven technology, helping homeownersand businesses go solar is one of the fastest and best ways to make animpact.

Although the environment is what attracted me to solar, I find myself spending most of my time discussing money. While almost everyone wouldagree that we should be environmentally responsible, our own budgetsusually are a big determinant in our ability to commit. Fortunately over the last few years, solar electricity generation has become affordableand an extremely attractive investment. Investment in the form ofgovernment tax credits and stakeholder subsidies has driven this costreduction and prices are now the same or lower as utility rates in manyparts of the country.

Economics aside, we must never forget the environment.

By almost every measure, the energy source that causes the greatestdestruction of ourenvironment and degradation of our health is coal. Burningcoal generates 54% of the electricity consumed in the U.S. (and 70%in China!) and virtually every step of the process including mining, transporting, burning, anddisposing of the remnants represents an environmental as well as humancatastrophe.

To start, the most economical method of getting to the coal is byusing explosives to literally blow away the surface of earth coveringthe veins of coal. In 2006, 1.72 million metric tons of explosives wereused for coal removal. The remaining contaminated earth is then pushedinto adjacent areas destroying life and fouling nearby watersheds.

Next the coal must be broken up and transported via trucks to beburned at the power plants. This uses a tremendous amount of fossilfuel. The trucks also require new roads and introduce tons of exhaustfumes into the mountains of the mostly rural coal-rich areas. Burningthe coal to generate electricity then releases millions of more tons ofpollutants into the atmosphere. In fact, burning coal is the number onesource of air-pollution in the US.

The coal industry, sensing a turning tide, markets the term “CleanCoal.” This is an oxymoron. Their theory is that scrubbers will removemany of the solid particulates that become airborne during combustion.These particulates are then collected into toxic slurry, which is thentransported, again via truck to be buried underground furtherthreatening groundwater supplies. Remarkably, some of this by-productcalled fly ash is used as a soil amendment!

Two recent eventsunderscore the dangers of coal –  the billion ton sludge spill in Harriman, Tennessee in  20o8 and the WestVirginia mine explosion that killed 29 miners in April of this year. These events drive home the fact that coal is devastating to theenvironment and puts human life at risk. As James Hansen,director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, concludesphasing out emissions from coal “is 80% of the solution to the globalwarming crisis.”

By contrast, solar panels, once assembled and installed, passivelysit in the sun producing electricity for decades and emit nothing!

Installing a solar power system today will not eliminatecoal-generated electricity. But millions of homes and businesses installing solarpanels as well as other energy efficiency measures over the next decadewill reduce our coal dependency significantly!

My mid-life career change into solar was motivated by my desire topositively effect our environment. Every system HelioPower brings online represents a step in the right direction.

We don’t have to drop what we’re doing and go back to the stone age;I’m a firm believer in the possibility of a future of sustainable energy and food sources, one that creates a future where our children enjoy an even higher quality of life than ours! However, to realize this future, we must assume responsibility and become part of the solution.Relatively small steps like eliminating bottled water, buyingsustainable foods, and backyard composting, or more substantialcommitments like installing solar panels on your home repeated hundredsof thousands and soon millions of times by concerned consumers willstart this process. Don’t wait for your utility company or grocer tochange their ways – you can help get this green ball rolling in theright direction right now!

Contact Derek at DGirling@HelioPower.com

By DerekGirling

HelioPowerSolar Energy Consultant

 

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The Solar Rights Act of 1978 in Practice

There are a lot of folks in California whose homes (and allimprovements done to them) fall under the jurisdiction of a Home Owner’s Association (HOA). If you live in an HOA this shouldn’t benews to you. In fact you may have already gone through the process ofgathering neighbor sign offs on your proposed home improvement beforepresenting the complete design package to the architectural committeefor approval. If you have not gone through this process and don’tunderstand how CC&R’s (the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions that determine what can and cannot be done to your property) can impact your solar power plans, this articleis for you!

While I can’t cover all available strategies to move improvementsthrough your HOA’s architectural committee, the purpose of this articleis to give you insights and strategies for getting your residentialsolar energy system approved if you come up against an ornery boardmember, neighbor, or other impediment.

First, let me lay down the ground rules. In California, The SolarRights Act of 1978 (and it’s various amendments over the years)states that “Any covenant, restriction, or condition contained in anydeed, contract, security instrument, or other instrument affecting thetransfer or sale of, or any interest in, real property that effectivelyprohibits or restricts the installation or use of a solar energy systemis void and unenforceable.”

The Solar Rights Act goes on to state “installation of a solar energy system… shall not be willfully avoided or delayed. Any entity, otherthan a public entity, that willfully violates these provisions is liable to the applicant or other party for actual damages and must pay a civil penalty to the applicant or other party in an amount not to exceed$1,000.” Pretty cut and dry, right? Well, here’s where things get alittle murkier.

Section 714 ofCalifornia Civil Code does give municipalities and HOAs some wiggleroom by giving these parties ‘reasonable restrictions on a solar energysystem’ and it is within these reasonable restrictions that atroublesome HOA board can deny or restrict a residential solar system.Under Section 714, reasonable restrictions are defined as “restrictionson a solar energy system that do not significantly increase the cost ofthe system or significantly decrease its efficiency or specifiedperformance”. The term ‘significantly’ is further defined as “an amountnot to exceed $2,000 over the system cost as specified and proposed or a decrease in system efficiency of an amount exceeding 20 percent asoriginally specified and proposed.” What this means is that an HOA canrestrict your solar power system if they don’t increase the cost by more than $2,000 or reduce its output by more than 20%.

Let me stop here for a moment and say that 99% of HOAs we deal within California approve solar electric systems without a hassle of anykind. Most boards are aware of the Solar Rights Act and/or supportrenewable energy in their communities. So chances are quite good(especially if you’re not the first solar home in your neighborhood)that your solar power system will get rubber stamped by the board.

For those of you in the 1% minority of HOAs, prepare for a fight.These boards are usually comprised of individuals with anachronisticviews of solar energy that fear that solar will detract from the natural beauty of the neighborhood, and they will do whatever it takes toimpede your solar installation. These individuals, when presented withThe Solar Rights Act, will build their opposition around the ‘reasonable restrictions’ clause of Section 714. The HOA’s most common tactic is to require you, the homeowner, to move the solar panels to a spot wherethey won’t be visible by your neighbors or to surround them with sometype of landscaping if the system is ground mounted. Another commontactic is to require you to buy a certain type of solar panel that theHOA finds to be aesthetically pleasing. If the HOA is particularlyopposed, they will play a game of ‘beat the clock’ with yourinstallation hoping that either you will give up on solar or your rebate reservation will expire before installation. ‘Beat the clock’ is aparticularly effective tactic if the architectural board only meetsmonthly or the board can’t seem to get a quorum at its monthly meetings.

Providing that you don’t give up and continue to fight for your right to

go solar, the HOA will often solicit the advice of a third party‘independent’ solar contractor to review your design. Of course, the HOA (which is using your dues money to pay for this independentassessment), will try it’s best to influence this independent thirdparty. One tactic I’ve seen several times is to have the third partydesign a system that falls within the ‘reasonable restrictions’ clause.For example, an HOA in Laguna Niguel recently tried this with a customer of mine by asking another solar contractor to design a system that fitentirely on the back roof. The HOA’s goal was to eliminate any solar onthe front of the house. Of course, the other contractor was able tooblige by reducing the system’s production by 18% (less than 20%) andbecause the system was smaller, it was also cheaper. As a result, theHOA thought it had gotten its way and went so far as to show up at anonsite meeting to review the other contractor’s design with me and mycustomer.

Well, that meeting didn’t work out quite the way the HOA planned. The other contractor had missed a critical shading factor in its design. Aseven foot chimney to the south of the array eliminated nearly half ofthe back roof from consideration (Please see my blog “The Ravages of Shading” to better understand why this would be aproblem). How could the other company have missed this tall chimney? The other company tried to design the system from a satellite image so they could save the trip out to the customer’s location. Once this companywas made aware of the chimney’s existence, their design was renderednull and void and the HOA (after five months of stalling tactics) wasforced to approve the original design.

Another HOA we’re working with recently approved a solar installation in Indian Wells provided the customer change from ‘front contact’ solar panels to ‘back contact’ solar panels because they didn’t ‘feel thereflective silver strips fit into the look’ of the neighborhood. Theywent on to say that they had gone to great effort to solicit ‘solarindustry experts’ who insisted that ‘back contact’ panels could beinstalled for the same price as the originally proposed system. Well,the fact is that this customer was originally proposed the panels theHOA likes, but opted for a less costly solution. The solar system thecustomer chose was in fact over $7,000 cheaper than the system the HOAwants. The HOA in this case was in clear violation of the Solar RightsAct and was forced to allow the customer to go with the less expensivepanel after a bit of wrangling.

I could cite numerous other examples of HOAs blocking solarinstallations for aesthetic and other reasons. So what do you do if youfind yourself with an unreceptive HOA board that frowns upon solar?First, you need to lead the fight. The HOA will not listen to your solar contractor or return his calls in many cases. This is your fight andyour solar company will have your back. Second, show your HOA the SolarRights Act. This piece of paper will make the problem go away 99% of the time. Third, prepare cost and efficiency comparisons between what youwant and what the HOA will allow. Be prepared to do a bit of educationhere since most HOA boards lack solar expertise. This is the best way to leverage your solar contractor. Fourth, have your contractor provideyou with photos of other installations they’ve done that are similar towhat he’s proposing for your home. After all, the HOA is mainlyconcerned with the system’s aesthetics, so if you can put their worriesof an ugly solar array to bed, then they will likely approve the system. Lastly, if all else fails, you may need to bring in some legalfirepower or get creative in some other way. Some things I’ve seenothers try are: having your neighbors sign a petition supporting yoursolar power system as designed; calling the media out to your home tohelp ‘enlighten’ the board; getting yourself elected to the board toeffect change from within, and lastly recalling the board outright.

In sum, if you live in an HOA community, you need to know your rights as they pertain to installing solar energy on your home. Familiarizingyourself with the law and the common tactics your HOA will employ toturn the law to their favor (or wear you down in the process) willinevitably speed system approval with minimal hassle. Your solarcontractor should be able to help you navigate this process if you hit a roadblock, but always remember this is your fight, and ultimately youshould win it. If you happen to be the first in your HOA to push solarthrough an uncooperative board, your neighbors will owe you a tremendous debt as they seek to reign in their energy costs in the future.

By ScottGordon
Vice President of Residential Sales
HelioPower, Inc

Scott Gordon can be reached at Sgordon@HelioPower.com

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First Ronald McDonald House in California Goes Solar

Ronald McDonald HouseCharities of San Diego, and Canadian Solar Inc. one of the world’slargest solar companies, and HelioPower, a leading solar powerengineering and installation firm, announced today  a new 116kWroof-mount photovoltaic (PV) solar electric system at the Ronald McDonald House of San Diego at 2929 Children’s Way in San Diego. This is the first Ronald McDonaldHouse in California to use solar energy to help power the House thatsupports families with seriously ill children in local hospitals.

Ronald McDonald House of San Diego will serve more than 20,000families this year alone, and the solar electric installation will help offset the electrical needs ofthe families with clean energy. This month, the House celebrates the one-year anniversary of its 47-bedroom House for overnight guests andits Family Care Center, which serves as a day-time refuge for anyonewith a child in a San Diego hospital.

“The Ronald McDonald House ensures families in San Diego receive thenecessities they need as they care for their sick child , and we are sopleased to be able to provide our high-quality modules to this pivotalcommunity facility,” said Mike Miskovsky, U.S. general manager ofCanadian Solar, Inc. “Through its leadership in California implementing a renewable energy solution, the Ronald McDonald House of San Diego willreap significant financial savings while contributing to environmentalsustainability for years to come.”

The Ronald McDonald House of San Diego solar electric system willproduce

an average of 147,846 kilowatt hours (kW/h) per year. Theenvironmental offset is equivalent to curtailing the release of 151,420pounds of carbon dioxide each year, or planting 554 new trees andsequestering the carbon dioxide over their lifetime.

The solar installation was designed and constructed by HelioPower andfinanced by Helio Micro Utility, and consists of 518 Canadian Solar CS6P-220P polycrystalline modules. These modules are among the top-ranked in theindustry in PV USA (PTC) ratings, which are quickly becoming universally accepted standards for measuring real-world module energy productionand performance.  PV Powered, Inc., an Advanced Energy company, supplied the 100kW inverter. Canadian Solar, HelioPower and PV Powered alldonated price reductions to benefit the charity.

“Ronald McDonald House decided to pursue solar energy to create ahealthy and sustainable environment for the children and families weserve, and to help greatly offset power costs,” said Bill Lennartz,president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House of San Diego. “Our partnershave been vital to our success as a resource to families in some of themost challenging times of their lives, and we are excited to now beproducing clean solar energy to help us provide care to even morefamilies.”

The solar installation is part of the Ronald McDonald House of SanDiego’s pursuit of U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy andEnvironmental Design (LEED) certification. The House was built according to strict green building standards, using a combination ofhigh-efficiency mechanical systems and envelope and lighting design; ituses 17.5 percent less energy than a typical building in California.Materials used to create the building contain significant amounts ofrecycled content, and the building provides recycling collectionstations to all house guests and employees.

“This is the first Ronald MacDonald House in California to go solar,” said Steve LoRusso, vice president of commercial sales at HelioPower.“Working with our affiliate company, Helio Micro Utility, we developedthe critical solar financing structure that worked for them as anonprofit entity and supported their green building goals.”

“Ronald McDonald House of San Diego makes life easier and morecomfortable for many families in need. We are honored to be a part ofhelping so many people by providing our inverter, with its field-provenreliability and uptime, to this important solar installation” said Erick Petersen, VP of Sales and Marketing at PV Powered.

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The 10,000 Solar Roofs Challenge

Powering10,000 homes with solar roofs in the United States might sound like a big challenge. You might, however, change your mind in lightof the following statistics.  According to the U. S. Census Bureaufigures, there were 69,865,957* homes in the year 2000 considered “detached, single family.”  Asyou ponder the miniscule percentage 10,000 of these homes represents,powering that many households with solar starts to sound like a modestgoal.  Particularly when you consider  solar as an energy source currently accounts for less than 1% of our national electrical energy needs.**  

The 10,000 solar roofs challenge is a recently launched cause“seeking 10,000 homeowners across the nation who want to power theirhomes with clean, solar energy in 2010.“  From the cause page: Now morethan ever is the time to embrace renewable energy as a cleaner and safer option to coal and oil. The Gulf oil spill and the coal mining accident are the most recent reminders of the risks involved with dirty fossilfuels. These disasters have hurt the environment, local economies, andtaken human lives.

The campaign is supported by SunRun, the nation’s leading residential solarfinancing company and solar installation firms including HelioPower.

“SunRun is supporting10,000 solar roofs because it’s so important for Americans to realizethat they do have a choice about where their energy comes from,” said SunRunPresident, Lynn Jurich.   “Our society relies heavily on coal andoil, no question.  Individually, we can decide to power our homes withclean renewable energy.   Many homeowners today can switch to solar forno upfront cost and no hassle.  It’s hugely important for everyone torealize that this is one way that they can make a big difference. 10,000 solar roofs in 2010 would go a long way to reducing pollution and ourdependence on dirty energy sources.” 

For more information about the solar roofs challenge and to supportthe cause see: https://www.causes.com/causes/484512

Sources:

U.S. Census Bureau/Census of Housing

** SEIA 2009 State of the Industry Report

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Bi-partisan Sun Endorses Both Green Parties

Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent orTea Partier, our sun graciously shines on you almost each and every day. However in this year’s election, the sun has come out and publicly endorsed the green parties – both of them!

Who are these two green parties? Well there’s the Green in YourWallet Green Party and there’s the Green Planet Green Party. The Green Planet Green Party has always been a favorite of the sun andnow the Green in Your Wallet Green Party has got the sun’s vote, too!

Installing solar panels is one of the best things you can do to significantly reduce you and your family’s carbon footprint. Your solar array will eliminate literally tens of thousands of pounds of CO2 over its life. As more and more homes and businesses go solar, less dirty oil and coal-firedgeneration facilities will be built and brought online.

Even if you believe man-made climate change is a hoax, it is commonsense to realize that cutting airborne pollutants is good for ourplanet. As Judy Bonds of Appalachian Voices and Coal River Mountain Watch says,“breathing clean air and drinking clean water shouldn’t be a luxury, but a birthright!” We owe it to our kids and our kid’s kids to doeverything possible to clean up the mess our industrialized society hasmade and get this clean up going as soon as possible. Solar panels arelike a great big broom with which to start sweeping!

The Green in Your Wallet Green Party members are the original solarskeptics. They understand the environmental benefits, but have beenwaiting for solar to be a sound investment as well. Their wait is over.Early adopters of solar gave the solar industry a great jumpstart andhelped drive down costs to the lowest ever. Whether you purchase yoursolar power system outright or utilize one of the several greatresidential solar financing options or a power purchase agreement to buy green energy, solar will start showing you a financial returns rightaway.

So while our political parties may split hairs with each other overwho has our best interests at heart, when it comes to which party oursun supports, it’s a landslide for the green parties – both of them!

By Derek Girling
HelioPowerSolar Energy Consultant

Contact Derek Girling at DGirling@HelioPower.com.

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HelioPower wins One Block Off the Grid (1BOG) Solar Group Purchase Campaign in the Inland Empire and Orange County

HelioPower, a leading solar power design and installation firm since 2001, todayannounced it has been selected by One Block Off the Grid (1BOG), thenation’s largest solar group discount company, to offer homeowners aneasy and affordable way to go solar in the Inland Empire (IE) and Orange county areas. The program ends September 14, 2010.

HelioPower’s “The Best Time to Go Solar Just Got Better!”campaign will offer homeowners throughout the IE and Orange County theopportunity to take advantage of 1BOG’s 15%* group discount on homesolar panel installation. In addition to great solar power systempricing, HelioPower, a SunRun home solar financing partner, will be able to offer zero down financing to qualified buyers.

"We are thrilled to recognize HelioPower as 1BOG’s installer partner, to service 1BOG member homeowners in the Inland Empire and OrangeCounty with top notch solar installations at a great, pre-negotiatedprice," said Dave Llorens, CEO of 1BOG. "HelioPower has always been afantastic partner to 1BOG and we selected them for the customer service, track record of successful installs and reliable warranties."

Scott Gordon, HelioPower’s vice president of residential sales,commented on the campaign: “We are very pleased to be the partnerselected for 1BOG’s Inland Empire and Orange County campaigns. This most recent selection validates HelioPower as a value driven solarintegration company that provides high quality installations ataffordable prices. We have already helped over 130 1BOG members go solar in previous campaigns and we look forward to helping 1BOG’s newestmembers realize their solar ambitions. When we combine 1BOG’spre-negotiated pricing with SunRun financing, the best time to go solarjust got better for those in the Inland Empire and Orange County.”

HelioPower and 1BOG will kick off the Inland Empire campaign with asolar education event, Wednesday, June 16th. The event willfeature opening remarks from Renea Wickman, Democratic candidate forCalifornia Assembly District 63, in her first post-primary publicappearance. The event will take place June 16th, 2010 at6:30pm at The Frontier Project, a USGBC LEED certified green building in Rancho Cucamonga.

To sign up for the HelioPower events please visit here for solar event information. More information about solar in the InlandEmpire can be found at the Solar Inland Empire 1BOG website. Homeowners in Orange County can find details about solarpricing, products and local events by visiting 1BOG’s Orange County solar specific information.

ScottGordon at HelioPower Introduces 1BOG solar Inland Empire and solarOrange county programs

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How 1BOG Helps Make Solar More Appealing to Mainstream Customers

An excerptfrom the original 1BOG solar post by Warren Schirtzinger for Renewable EnergyWorld.com:

When faced with a purchase decision that involves high cost and/or high risk, pragmatic customers (starting with the early majority) will not buy until they see proven/leading suppliers,references from people they trust, and reliability of service.  1BOGhelps mainstream customers meet these buying requirements by offering aunique combination of group purchasing/installation and objectiveadvice.

1BOG’s service organizes homeowners in a given area and allows themto purchase and install solar as a group.  In addition to negotiating avolume discount of about 15%, 1BOG acts as an independent provider ofquality assurance and objective information.  To qualify as a 1BOGvendor, local solar companies must go through a rigorous evaluation oftheir products, installation practices, and longterm stability as acompany. Customers are also provided with assistance and support in theareas of rebates/incentives, financing and permits.

While most people would point to the 15% reduction in cost or theassistance provided with bureaucracy and paperwork as the primarybenefits of 1BOG’s program, I believe the true power of their approachis in helping reduce the perceived risk of solar.

In the world of high risk the customer will not rely on the word of a vendor. The customer’s decision process is based on finding objectiveinformation from reliable sources, something the vendor cannot provide. 1BOG reduces the perception of risk by acting as that provider ofobjective information.  1BOG facilitates references from trusted sources (by organizing buyers into self-referencing groups), and then providesevidence of expertise and product quality (by vetting local solarproviders).

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Is PACE Worth Waiting For in San Diego?

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot about San Diego’s Property AssessedClean Energy (PACE) program both from customers and from solar companies advertising on KPBS. I find this curious as most of the importantdetails (including exactly when this program will roll out, how muchmoney will be available, and whether you’ll need to do extensiveefficiency retrofits before qualifying for solar) are fuzzy at best, sobefore we delve into all that we don’t know, let’s cover the one thingwe do know: we know that CCSE will administer the program. Otherwise,it’s anyone’s guess what’s really going on. A recent visit to CCSE’s website simply resulted in a 50,000 foot view of what PACE is andhow CCSE will administer it. Search Google and most of the resultsherald back to the middle of 2009. As a result, all we are left with isrumor and innuendo. So this begs the question, Is PACE in San Diegoworth waiting for?

An examination of other PACE (or AB 811 programs) sheds some light on what we can expect when and if PACE San Diego ever comes to fruition.While AB 811 has helped several cities speed the adoption of solar, most (with the exception of Sonoma) have experienced boom and bust cycles in financing. In many cities, allotted AB 811 money is gone within hoursof the first application being submitted. The result is long waitinglists of people hoping that sooner or later additional funds will beavailable to fund their systems with demand always outstripping supply(of money) by an order of magnitude. For those forced to wait for the next round of financing,there are a real costs involved:  the cost of paying your electric bill, the cost of missing a rebate tier, and the cost of potentially delaying your tax credit by a year.

Let’s examine the positives of PACE financing. PACE requires nocredit check or and has a liberal loan to value requirement (you mustnot owe more on your home than it’s worth). Thus, anyone who is currenton their property taxes is eligible. If you have bad credit or have ahigh LTV, PACE can be a great vehicle for financing energy efficiencyimprovements. The PACE loan is secured against the property as a firstposition tax lien. Thus, the property owner repays the PACE loanbi-annually when he pays his property taxes. Interest rates on PACEloans average 7-8% simple interest, which isn’t so terrible if yourcredit is less than stellar or don’t qualify for alternative financing.Additionally, if you sell your home, the loan stays with the propertyand is assumed by the buyer.

Now let’s examine the negatives. First, if you are credit worthy, you can generally finance your solar system for 5-6% through a conventional bank or for as little as 3.1% through a PPA such as SunRun. Shaving 400 to 500 basis points off your loan can save you BIG money over the lifeof the system. Next, PACE money is used up quickly. In other words, ifyou’re not one of the first in line, chances are the program willexhaust its funds long before your application is reviewed. As a result, you’ll continue to pay high electricity rates while you wait for thenext round of funding. Third, you have to pay the loan back as a taxassessment, so you’ll need to be prepared to write a larger check to the tax man bi-annually and budget appropriately.

While I believe that PACE financing in San Diego can be great forcertain customers, customers with good credit and home equity areeligible for superior financing with far better terms and fasterreturns. If you’re considering solar for your home, you’d be welladvised to examine all of your available finance options before assuming PACE is the best option for you. You should also consider the cost ofwaiting in your calculus. It’s possible other financing options willcost you less over the long run, help you be cash flow positive sooner,and provide you with smaller more manageable monthly (rather thanbi-annually) payments. Either way you decide to go, HelioPower is hereto help you secure the most beneficial financing for your solar projectand can help you determine the best path for your unique situation.

By ScottGordon

Vice President, Residential Sales, HelioPower

Contact Scott Gordon at SGordon@HelioPower.com.

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Prop 16 – “The Taxpayers Right to Vote”

By ScottGordon
Vice President, Residential Sales, HelioPower

With the June 8th election fast approaching in California, thepolitical ads are flying fast and furious. One television ad that seemsto be getting a lot of airtime espouses the virtues of Proposition 16.On the surface, the tenets of Prop 16 sound reasonable enough. Themeasure would require voters to approve any municipality’s plan tolaunch a new public utility district in California. Rather than a simple majority, Prop 16 will require a difficult to attain two-thirdsmajority vote before local governments could launch a new public utility or expand an existing one. There are currently 48 ‘munis’ inCalifornia.

In case you’re unfamiliar with what a public utility district or‘muni’ is, let me give you some examples: Anaheim Public Utility, SMUD,IID, Pasadena Water & Power, LADWP, Etc are all public utilities. If you happen to live in a public utility, you enjoy some of the lowestfixed energy rates in California. Currently public utility customersenjoy significantly lower electricity rates than their neighbors in thelarge investor owned utilities. They also enjoy some of the largestrebates for solar and other self generation technologies. Thus, it seems that creating additional municipal utilities would be a great thing for California consumers, so who would aim to block the creation of suchbeneficial public agencies and why would they put forth a nearlyimpossible two-thirds majority vote requirement?

If you follow the money, the trail will lead you directly to PacificGas & Electric (PG&E). In fact, PG&E’s Board approved $35million to push Prop 16. John Geesman, California’s former EnergyCommissioner from 2002 – 2008, recently wrote in his blog, “California’s investor owned utilities face a Himalayan task in modernizing ourelectricity system and building the infrastructure necessary to serve agrowing economy. They ought to focus on that, rather than manipulatingthe electorate to kneecap their few competitors.” In all fairness toSouthern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric(SDG&E), who would also benefit from a law all but guaranteeingtheir monopolies, these two investor owned utilities have taken aneutral stance on Prop 16.

Why is Prop 16 bad for consumers? First, it eliminates competition.Less competition almost always means higher prices. Second, it’ssponsored by a big utility whose sole interest is maintaining itsmonopoly. Third, it fails to properly grandfather the existing municipal utilities properly making all new electrical connections in thoseservice areas subject to a two-thirds majority vote. Fourth, the nameitself: “Taxpayers Right to Vote” is intentionally misleading and wholikes to be intentionally misled? Besides, last time I checked, Ialready had the right to vote.

So, when you find yourself in the voter’s booth on June 8th, askyourself who benefits most from Prop 16, PG&E or municipal utilities trying to offer their citizens lower electricity rates?  I think we all can agree that the only “monopoly” worth saving is the one made byHasbro.

You can find out more about Prop 16 by visiting: https://www.laprogressive.com/the-environment/californias-prop-16-worst-measure-june-ballot/

You can reach Scott Gordon at Sgordon@HelioPower.com

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The Seasons of Solar

Just like our earth’s annual trek around the sun, the solar energybusiness has its seasons as well. While not as clearly evident as bright flowers blooming after spring showers or leaves drying into brilliantautumn hues, our industry’s climate is driven by three strong forces –hot weather, rebates, and tax credits! Savvy consumers understand theseasonality of solar and plan accordingly to get the most financialbenefit.

As a solar professional, all winter long I’m engaged in phone andemail exchanges with interested homeowners exploring the feasibility ofsolar for their homes. We quickly determine if they are a good candidate for solar by analyzing their bills and their home’s solar exposure.Financial benefits are calculated and financing options outlined to meet their unique needs. Months go by with only their relatively smallwinter electricity bills to remind them of our discussions. Likeclockwork, as soon as the temperature approaches t-shirt time and the AC charges on, they’re ready to move forward and schedule installationASAP!

Rebate tier drops are another driving force in the solar year. Asmore and more homeowners go solar, rebates tiers drop accordingly. Thisis exactly how our California SolarInitiative was designed. Early adapters, enticed to jump in with big rebates, encouraged competition and drove prices down. Good solar sales representatives keep their customers informed as to when the rebatetier will drop and get their customers contracted before they losethousands of rebate dollars. Typically during the last few weeks of arebate tier hundreds of contracts are signed and bottlenecks are created with both utilities and installers attempting to deal with the hugesurge in demand.

The end of the year also drives demand as homeowners try to get their systems installed and commissioned before December 31st.They’re anxious to capture thousands of dollars of tax credits! Ourcompany starts spreading the word in late summer. If you want to beguaranteed an installation and inspection by the end of the year, thenwe better get you contracted by the end of September. This is the onlyway to insure that module availability, weather, permitting and HOAissues, or scheduling won’t delay your installation. Again hundreds ofhomeowners scramble at the end of the year resulting in additionalunnecessary stress during the hectic holiday season.

Unfortunately, these scenarios repeat themselves each year throughout our growing industry. Reputable installers are scheduling scores ofhomes each week. Customers feel confident using them because they haveproven track records, good pricing, and there’s a higher likelihoodthey’ll be around for decades to honor their system’s warranty in theevent of a problem. Unless you’re willing to trust your home and yourroof to an untested installation firm, postponing your decision mayresult in a long wait enduring the highest bills of the year or waitinganother year for a tax credit.

Reach your decision just a few months earlier and you’ll savehundreds or even thousands of dollars in avoided energy costs, and havethe added satisfaction of working with your first choice of contractor.The best time of the year to go solar is right now! Get your last year’s electricity bills together. Meet with a few good companies and usetheir expertise to help you decide on the right size system and bestfinancing option. Then sign a contract and get scheduled!

Contact Derek Girling at DGirling@HelioPower.com

By DerekGirling
HelioPowerSolar Energy Consultant

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Helio Micro Utility Acquires Simple Energies

Helio Micro Utility (Helio mU), a developer and financier of solar energy projects, today announced the acquisition of Simple Energies LLC, arenewable energy project development company with a 50 megawatt globalpipeline.  The agreement brings renewable energy veteran and SimpleEnergies CEO TyJagerson to the company’s executive management team.  Jagerson, whowas a founding executive of SolFocus and co-founderof the Xerox PARC Cleantech Initiative, becomes President of Helio Micro Utility; he also steps in to lead commercial and utility scale salesfor affiliated company HelioPower, becoming Executive Vice President, Commercial Sales.

Helio Micro Utility, spun out of HelioPower in 2007, works withestablished financial partners to develop, own and operate largecommercial and utility scale solar assets in the United States andabroad. In 2008 the firm worked with Citi Community Capital, a divisionof Citi, to form the Helio Green Energy Community Investment Fund, a$100 million solar financing program.  The initial project for the Helio Green Energy Fund was The Tech Museum in San Jose, CA. Sister companyHelioPower, founded in 2001, has installed more than 1000 solar powersystems worldwide. Terms of the acquisition agreement were notdisclosed.

Mo Rousso, Chief Executive Officer for Helio mU, said, “By acquiringSimple Energies, Helio Micro Utility expands its pipeline into adjacentsolar markets and other renewable energy domains and increases our solar financing strength. Bringing Ty on board in particular adds a seasonedsolar industry professional with proven U.S. and international projectdevelopment skills; this adds the financial acumen we need for this next stage of our growth.” He further added, “As the demand for clean energy continues to accelerate here and abroad, Ty’s expertise will help usscale up in developing, financing, owning, and operating renewableenergy assets.”

Ty Jagerson said, “I’m delighted to be joining such awell-established, and well-regarded solar energy team. The track recordthat Mo and the team have built for performance and profitable growthmakes them an ideal match for the renewable energy project portfolio and innovative solar financing products we have developed at SimpleEnergies.”

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