Friday, July 6, 2018
With the summer sun staying high in the sky, an open program for discounted solar panel installation runs through August 30, organized by the Community Environmental Council (CEC). In its seventh year, the program offers battery storage in this round, as Southern California Edison is increasing its evening rates. The next informational meeting takes place Wednesday, July 11 at 6 p.m. in the Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Avenue. Another will be held at the Carpinteria Library (5141 Carp Ave.) on July 19 at 6 p.m.
Two installers — Brighten Solar and California Solar Electric — are the participating contractors, said April Price, the CEC's renewable energy specialist, and were chosen by a committee for their service and equipment. More than 650 homes have added the sun as an energy provider through the program, which complements the 100 percent solar targets set by both the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta. The solar array can produce a net gain for owners as unused electricity is credited through net metering, and the program includes financing options. Homeowners having been choosing arrays that have run between $10,000 and $15,000, said Price, and can claim a 30 percent federal tax refund.
The electricity storage component is new to this year's program. A rise in electricity cost comes from Southern California Edison in June's bill, from 16.2 to 16.3 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), said spokesperson Ron Gales, for transmission costs. The utility provider also has a new set of "Time of Use" rate plans, which rolled out to 400,000 users in March and is set to be system-wide by October 2020. The plans set different prices for electricity at different times of the day and night, with increased costs after 4 or 5 p.m. to encourage users to avoid times when demand gets high and the availability of electricity falls off. This is where battery storage comes in.
Evening service will become more expensive, Price explained. "With grid-tied batteries, homeowners will be able to store the energy that is created from their solar panels during the day and discharge the battery later in the evening … [T]ax credits and utility incentives make them more affordable now."
A lithium iron phosphate sonnenBatterie is offered through CEC's program; it eschews cobalt, said Price, the mining of which is connected to significant human rights issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The batteries are available in 4kWh and 10kWh sizes through the program, with the larger battery and installation costing around $25,000. The 30 percent federal tax refund applies, as well as a state-funded rebate.
The program is supported by Santa Barbara County, and the cities of Goleta, Carpinteria, and Santa Barbara. For more information, go to SolarizeSB.com or call (805) 963-0583 x102.