Solar power a consideration when remodeling


Last updated 11/15/2007 at Noon

“Close the door, the air conditioner’s on!”

“No, I won’t turn up the heat! Just put on an extra sweater and some gloves and a hat; then you won’t be cold.”

These are the types of statements made by those without solar powered photovoltaic systems.

“Going solar can be a guilty pleasure for those smart enough to realize the benefits,” said Terri Steele at the Center for Sustainable Energy. “Honestly, there really is a vicarious pleasure in watching that electric meter spin backward – and in knowing the more electricity produced by harnessing the power of the sun, the less you pay San Diego Gas & Electric [SDG&E].” Maybe that’s why San Diego really is Sun Diego – all that limitless solar energy just waiting to be tapped.

“So Watt,” the new exhibit at Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, has all the bigwigs smiling at SDG&E and Shell Trading, the sponsors of the exhibit. A remote camera allows visitors to watch 10,000 square feet of solar panels harvesting 134,000 kW hours of electricity this year ad infinitum.

“It’s part of the ‘thinking and doing’ mentality of conservation and alternate clean fuel use which SDG&E is promoting,” said Mike Niggly, president of San Diego Gas & Electric.

Perhaps the recent wildfires will encourage those rebuilding to rethink the way their homes are powered. The Rice Fire was reportedly started by power lines and many customers were knocked off the grid. With solar photovoltaic energy, a user can power a house on the grid or off the grid.

David Thompson, a Fallbrook resident, invested in a solar panel system recently. He had it installed by Solar Plus, the same company that installed the domestic solar water heater for his pool.

“Solar is really the wave of the future for Fallbrook,” Thompson said. “It gives me a great deal of peace of mind and pleasure to see my meter running backward. I breathe a sigh of relief. I will receive my bill once a year. The system investment was under $30,000.”

Thompson figured he’d get a head start on the new energy efficiency codes included in the modified Title 24 building codes for new homes and remodels.

“Installing a solar photovoltaic system on your house is one way to meet the new code,” Thompson said. “Another way might be planting coniferous tress on the north side of your home and deciduous trees on the south and west sides.”

“Whether we stay here 20 years or move in a couple, a buyer looking for a home will see our solar panel system as a big selling point in comparison to another house that doesn’t have solar.”

Looking toward the future, Thompson sees a time when his surplus solar energy will be bought by the energy company.

“Michigan, of all places, has a bill which will allow homeowners to sell their surplus solar energy back to the energy company at fair market value, which is quite a concept,” he explained.

As Terri Steele commented, “Many people get their energy bills every month and suffer from what we jokingly call ‘energy envy,’ knowing they can choose clean, cost-effective solar panels that meet their energy demands. It doesn’t have to be this way. With cash rebates at the center and federal tax credits, there’s never been a better time to go solar.”

“I should have put in a solar photovoltaic system a long time ago because it’s really changed my life,” Thompson admitted.

As San Diego City Councilwoman Toni Atkins exclaimed at the opening of “So Watt,” “One by one, each taxpayer will benefit from installing solar.”


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