September 30, 2011 (San Diego) – San Diegans are taking to the streets to combat rising energy costs Saturday, October 1 during the twelth Annual San Diego Solar Tour, part of the non-profit American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour, the world’s largest grassroots solar event.
The free, self-guided tours showcase a “Sweet Solar 16” of energy efficient homes and public agencies that are providing owners with ample economic and environmental rewards. Presented by the non-profit San Diego Renewable Energy Society, the San Diego Solar Tour runs 10 am to 2 pm. The tour includes an East County fire survivor’s rebuilt solar home.
The tour is among hundreds of tours nationwide that afford participants the direct perspectives of businesses, home owners and installers about the costs, processes and benefits of going solar.
“Until recently, many solar adopters were more compelled by protecting the planet than preserving what was in their wallets,” said San Diego Renewable Energy Society (SDRES) Board Member Pekka Laine, President of Photon Solar Power. “But solar costs have dropped 20% in the past four years. With higher panel efficiencies, lower price tags and a treasure trove of domestic market incentives, today’s solar solutions are as much an economic play as an environmental one.”
Not only do most solar solutions qualify for an enticing 30% federal tax credit, California provides cash incentives to reduce the costs of solar for homes and businesses. Some utilities offer incentives to lower costs even further. All incentives combined can reduce up-front costs by as much as 60%. Toss in the savings of fueling an electric vehicle with the utility bill offset by free solar energy (a solution known as EV-PV) and the savings continue.
This year’s Sweet Solar 16 features net zero energy solutions, EV-PV, solar cooking, solar heating, solar hot water solutions – even battery back-up in event of power outages -- manifested in a variety of households. The San Diego Renewable Energy Society is presenting the tour as a free public service. Sponsors include Aleo Solar, Photon Solar Power, Real Goods Solar, SolarEdge and Sullivan Solar Power.
“We wanted this year’s tour to demonstrate how solar is improving the lives of a variety of San Diegans, from condo owners to young families to empty nesters, home builders, surfers, students – even educational institutions like San Diego City College and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps,” said tour sponsor and SD RES Board Member Dan Sullivan.
The tour is designed to introduce the solar technologies citizens are using to 1) slash monthly energy bills, 2) reap rich tax credits, 3) create green jobs, 4) reduce harmful carbon emissions and assert their energy independence, while improving property values and creating more sustainable communities. The tours also give consumers a glimpse at how a variety of solar systems look in and around structures with different architectural styles.
Contributing to homeowners’ solar ROI is a recent study out of University of California San Diego that finds roof-top solar panels aren’t just providing clean power, they shelter rooftops, keeping them 5-degrees cooler in summer and warmer in the winter. This cuts down on year-round cooling *and* heating costs.
Further, the United States EPA reports in the Appraisal Journal that a home’s value increases by $20 for every $1 decrease in annual electricity bills. Homeowners who install solar on existing houses get nearly three times the premium of homeowners whose new house came adorned with solar.
“Over the years, we've seen solar professionals join these tours as a way to showcase their work to qualified prospects in their service territories," said San Diego Renewable Energy Society Chair Steve Johnston. "These tours are an effective way for folks interested in solar to meet licensed, qualified professionals who can educate them on installation processes, how solar works and the many incentives today's solar PV, solar thermal and energy efficiency solutions deliver."
TOUR HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
Cedar Fire Rebuild: Solar from the Ground up, Crest
When Crest resident Glen Weischedel's Craftsman bungalow burned to the ground during the Cedar fires, he found the opportunity to build a solar-ready, energy-smart home that not only paid homage to the architectural characteristics of the home his grandfather built decades before, but also harnessed passive and active solar techniques. Wrap-around verandas are oriented to welcome morning sun to warm the home, then block the hot mid-day rays. The angles of the south-facing rooftop are oriented to allow for optimum energy production, and a second-story balcony is plumbed with an outdoor faucet to allow for easy roof access and cleaning. (Solar panels are like windows. A good cleaning optimizes their functionality). Solar hot water panels are installed where rooftop space is limited, and solar PV where the hip roof allows for larger arrays. A recent UCSD study shows that rooftop solar not only reaps tax credits and saves on energy bills, the arrays serve as insulators, keeping households up to 5-degrees cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
“Designing an energy-smart home from the ground up is a faster, more straightforward process,” said architect Charles Roberts. “Laying wiring, conduits and initiating proper roof prep while the house is open translates into up-front efficiencies (and savings) that everyone can appreciate.”
Boots on the Roof, A Solar Training Ground for Future Installers, City Heights
In a unique partnership among San Diegans, the Community College District and a non-profit entitled GRIDAlternatives, low income families are realizing lower utility bills as eager students of today's solar technology learn the technicalities of the trade from certified professionals. It's a program for affordable solar that's changing minds about the benefits of distributed generation and qualifying young professionals for the advanced energy jobs of the future.
Empty Nester Solar, Ranch Bernardo
Aesthetically pleasing in a neighborhood with enforced CC&Rs (Codes, Covenants and Restrictions), this lovely Rancho Bernardo household allows its retired owner – a PhD in mathematics -- and his wife to live large on small utility bills.
This 1.2kW DC solar-powered home employs ultra-efficient SANYO HIT Power modules to offset 100% of the home’s energy production – even on the warmest of days. And the energy-vigilant practices of owner Dr. Urho Rauhala to properly insulate his home prior to installing solar means he considerably reduced the actual amount of solar energy required to meet his family’s needs. This home solar solution is the smallest eligible for a California Solar Initiative incentive.
A Net Zero Energy Household, Leucadia
This spectacular home manifests solar pv, solar-heated water and pool, construction recycling, durable materials, the best Energy Star appliances, outdoor living areas, beautiful dual-paned, low-e glass doors, CALGREEN low water use plumbing, reclaimed irrigation water, indigenous xeriscape landscaping and groundwater recharge. Talk with the professionals who designed and created this net zero energy home about the many incentives its owners have realized in building their dream home. Learn more about the smart design and energy-savvy strategies that allowed its owners to live in comfort and beauty without ever having to pay an energy bill. How? Their system back-feeds the SDG&E meter and has yet to generate a power bill from the utility.
EV-PV, Battery Back-up!, Solar Cooking and TOU-EV Solutions, Cardiff
When Charlie and Ann Johnson first installed 2.4 kilowatts (kW) of solar PV on their house in 2004, their new solar solution addressed 90% of their home electricity needs. Then they purchased a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The carbon emitted from their driving went down. But their electric use went up. Their electric bill, however, has since gone down due to a whole house time of use (TOU) utility discount available for PHEV and EV owners (EV-TOU2).
It was the economic prudence and environmental benefits of going solar that drove Charlie and Ann Johnson to solar equip their home. They now harness the sun’s energy to reduce their monthly utility bill, fuel their plug-in hybrid vehicle and enjoy hot, tasty meals (from steak to lasagna to soups and stews) straight from their trio of solar-powered ovens. Oh, and the Johnsons also employ solar for an Enginer battery back-up system stored in the trunk of their PHEV. When the lights go out around the neighborhood, they've got power reserve to keep the LEDs burning and the beer chilled.
Multi-Family Solar, Mission Valley
The Mission Valley Homeowners' Association is finding innovative ways to cut costs, stimulate markets for today's improved solar water heating technologies, lower carbon emissions and create a differentiator among condominium complexes that quickly attracts buyers and slashes bills for water heating, which can be the largest expense of a household energy bill in California. This site was the first to qualify for the new CA Solar Initiative rebate for solar hot water systems in the SDG&E service territory.
Additional Tour Attractions:
For the Kids: “Boundless Energy” Exhibit
Get charged up about the future of energy at Birch Aquarium at Scripps and see Boundless Energy for free! Receive one free child or adult admission to this solar tour stop with any paid adult admission by simply redeeming the Birch Aquarium flyer from the Solar Tour programs distributed at each of the 12th Annual San Diego Solar Tour’s Sweet Solar 16 sites on October 1.
Take your family to visit solar-powered homes on the 12th Annual Solar Tour, then bring your favorite solar students to Birch Aquarium for a fun-filled look at the capabilities of today’s renewable energy. Boundless Energy is a new interactive exhibit that celebrates the innovative ways we can use natural forces like sun, wind and waves to power our lives.
No time to tour homes Oct. 1 and enjoy the Aquarium’s many treasures? A-ok, this is a sustainable promotion: Flyers for Boundless Energy are redeemable October 1 through October 15, 2011.
Be Among the First to Take the Tour and Receive a free Solar Living Source Book. San Diego Solar Tour Sponsor Real Goods Solar is giving away one free 30th anniversary edition of company founder John Schaeffer's Solar Living Source Book to the first 5 groups of individuals to visit a tour site and mention Real Goods Solar and the San Diego Renewable Energy Society.
About the San Diego Renewable Energy Society (SD RES): The non-profit San Diego Renewable Energy Society (SD RES) is a membership-based organization dedicated to increasing the intelligent use of renewable and sustainable energy technologies in San Diego County through education, advocacy, networking and the presentation of special events like the perennial San Diego Solar Tour. SD RES is the San Diego Chapter of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), the nation's first association of solar professionals and grassroots advocates. Learn more at www.sdres.org.