Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Recap of Today's Meeting at Google

This afternoon Lyndon Rive of SolarCity and I were invited to make a presentation about the Solar Buyers Group at Google. Steve Lacy (a member of the Buyers Group) was our host.

As you may know, Google is currently installing 1,600 kW of solar panels. Some of them are being built as shade structures in the parking lot, and I parked near one of them. It looks like it's almost ready to hook up to the grid. The panels were not tilted, but were parallel to the parking lot. This probably makes for a very simple installation and minimizes problems with wind loading.

There were about 40 Googlers at the meeting, and, as you might expect, they asked very good questions. I think several of them will buy systems. There were many others in attendance who don't live in Mountain View -- I hope they will become advocates for solar in their home communities.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You CAN Afford to Go Solar

I got a note from Eve Carlson who had a suggestion about what the really good news is about going solar -- you can do it with no money down! Read what Eve has to say...

"Try to get the media who cover this (and SolarCity) to "lead" with the really good news that many people can make this change WITHOUT any change in their current costs. I was hoping for that, but found it very hard to find any information that spoke to that when I searched around the Solar City web site or read your blog or articles in the papers. I think many people think they cannot afford a solar system or don't want to "pay up front" for it. I know there are a lot of variables that determine cost, but a simple way to show people what is possible is to give an "example" such as our house.

How you can keep your electricity costs the same and eliminate your electric bill in nine years!

One 2000 square foot house in MV with good sun exposure and a monthly electric bill of $150-$200 (900-1000 Kwh) got an estimate of $17,000 for a system that would eliminate all but $22 of our electricity costs. With monthly payments about the same as the usual electric bill ($212), a home equity loan for $17,000 with a rate of 7% would take 9 years to payoff."

OK, thanks Eve for sharing your numbers with the rest of us. My guess is that as a result of going solar you will find ways to eliminate the last 200 KWH per month and by 2008 your electric bill will be essentially zero!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

First 2 Systems Now Being Installed

I bumped into my neighbor Lenny Siegel today near Mercy-Bush Park. (I was walking, he was biking. Very environmentally friendly of us!)

Lenny said that his system has just been installed, and he is now waiting for the City inspection. That's the first installation that I know of, though I've heard that the Lacy family, who live very near Lenny, are slated for an installation tomorrow or Monday.

We have just scheduled our visit from a field engineer to do the technical design of our system and inspect our existing electrical service and circuit breaker box. He will be here on April 4.

A Note of Satisfaction

This is a copy of a letter that Chris Dateo sent to Lyndon Rive, the CEO of SolarCity. It is posted here with Chris' permission.

March 22, 2007

Dear Lyndon,

My wife Mary and I had been looking at solar power for our home for a few years now, and we were very interested in the program your company had offered to Portola Valley. Indeed when we saw that Bruce Karney had contacted your company and helped bring it to Mountain View, we made sure that we attended the first community meeting at the new Senior Center. [You might recall, I was the gentleman that asked why your marketing seemed to target sizing systems at less than 100% usage, and why not above? ROI is important, I agree, but reducing carbon footprint and our environmental future are even more so!] We signed up and received a call to schedule a site evaluation within a few days.

To this point, we have been nothing but satisfied. Our sales rep Paul came out twice within a few days, and answered all our questions (I am a Ph.D. scientist and I have had many) and has continued to be very responsive via e-mail and phone. Dave (sorry did not get his last name or e-mail), the engineer that came out to our site after we had signed up, was also very informative and helpful, and Cameron who appears to have taken the information from Dave, has been very great at working with us with coming up with a design and answering yet more questions. I have also received an e-mail from PG&E that indicated that we would be receiving a Confirmed Reservation Notice soon, so looks like things are moving along.

I also belong to the Cuesta Park Neighborhood Association which has a fairly extensive (over 300 members and growing) Yahoo Group. There has been some discussion from a few people with regards to poor responsiveness from Solar City and fears that they have overextended themselves. I have been able to respond to these with confidence that the former has not been the case with us, and feel pretty good that the team we have been working with will come through for us when installation is scheduled.

Just wanted to pass this information along. Thus far we are very happy customers. Paul, Dave, and Cameron (and I am sure that there are several folks behind the scene) have all been doing a great job. Thank you also for helping make this happen. I hope Mountain View is able to surpass Portola Valley, not only for a better ROI, but for a step towards a better planet.

Chris Dateo
Montalto Drive
Mountain View, CA 94040

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Who Will Get the $5,000 Discount?

If you have attended any of the information meetings, you know that SolarCity announced that it is giving a $5,000 discount to one of its first 30 Mountain View customers. They did this to incent customers to sign up sooner rather than at the last minute, as happened in Portola Valley. A random drawing will select the family that will receive the discount.

Well, the incentive seems to have worked. The first 30 customers signed up in the period between Feb. 10 and March 16, a rate of a little less than one customer per day.

The drawing to determine the lucky winner will take place at the final informational meeting. It will be held on Tuesday, April 17 from 7 - 8 p.m. at the MV Community Center, 201 S. Rengstorff Ave.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Solar Group Makes TV News

Twana and I were interviewed this afternoon by Tony Russomanno of KPIX (Channel 5) about the Solar Buyers Group. The segment aired on the 6 PM news.

This was exciting for us. We've both appeared on shows on the local Mtn. View cable access TV station in the past, but this is the first time either of us have appeared on a major station.

I've transcribed the segment, which lasted about two minutes. I don't know how long the link to the online video will be available -- maybe a week or two.

Transcribed from

Ken Bastida: Well, from toilet paper to mayonnaise, everyone knows you can save money when you buy in bulk, but Tony Russomanno tells us a buying co-op is letting homeowners extend those discounts to solar power.

Tony Russomanno: The cost of going solar in several peninsula cities has suddenly dropped more than 25%. Bruce Karney realized he could get a big discount if he signed up enough neighbors to buy in volume.

Bruce Karney: I’d like to leave the planet in as good a shape as I found it, and I realized that over my lifetime I’ve put a lot of greenhouse gasses into the air. I can’t directly undo the past, but I can change my behavior going forward.

Tony Russomanno: Karney’s doing things like charting his carbon footprint on the internet, and carefully tracking his electricity use.

Bruce Karney: So, this is a device called a Kill-a-Watt and it allows you to measure the number of watts that an appliance is using.

Tony Russomanno: It took some getting used to for his wife.

Twana Karney: He had strung up a clothesline in the back yard, and so instead of using the dryer he was hanging the clothes outside.

Tony Russomanno: He was drying the clothes -- he didn’t expect you to hang the clothes, did he?

Twana Karney: No, no, this is an equal opportunity household.

Tony Russomanno: But his biggest move was getting a solar power installer to agree to volume discounts. The solar discount program began in Portola Valley and spread here to Mountain View. It’s now moving on to Woodside and Menlo Park, and a public hearing is going to be held in Menlo Park on Saturday to discuss the details. An average installation will cost about $17,000 with the discount, at least $6,000 less than systems purchased individually. A salesman for a competing installer says the savings are real.

Kurt Newick (Horizon Energy Systems): I have to go out as a salesman, I have to work on each home one at a time. If you can do it in bulk you can get the neighbors together it just reduces the amount of time and overhead and expense.

Tony Russomanno: Twenty five Mountain View households have already signed up. They need 60 to get the full discount, and Karney is sure they’ll make it. He says he gets nothing out of the deal for himself.

Bruce Karney: I’m doing this for the public good.

Tony Russomanno: Oh, so he does get something. The knowledge he’s helping to save the planet. In Mountain View, Tony Russomanno, CBS-5.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Story in the Palo Alto Daily News

More good publicity for the Solar Buyers Group just appeared in the Palo Alto Daily News.

It's great to get positive press and to see that other cities (Menlo Park and Woodside) are picking up on the idea.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hey, I'm In the Merc + Well Attended Meeting

The interview I did with Sarah Tribble showed up in the Mercury News today (March 10), just in time to help publicize today's meeting. We had about 50-55 people in the audience. About 1/4 said they found about it through each of these routes: the Mercury-News article, the add in The Voice, the article in the OMVNA Newsletter, and via an e-mail.

There were lots of good questions from the audience again today. I'm really happy with the way Mountain View is responding to this opportunity!

There aren't any more public meetings currently scheduled, but I think it would make sense to have one more meeting in the first half of April. I'll talk with the folks at SolarCity about that next week.