Walnut Creek, California Retirement Community Residents Go Solar!
A 4-plex of residents in a Walnut Creek, CA retirement community decide to go solar. The result is a small solar community, with other residents watching on and catching the “solar bug.” - “It's a win-win situation.”
“Solar Communities” are beginning to pop up around the country – especially in states such as California and New Jersey where financial incentives are strong. A solar community is a block of residents joined together to install solar panels – often receiving the same bulk discounts you might get on a 42-pack of socks at Costco.
Tim O. of Walnut Creek, California recently did just that in his retirement community. Rossmoor is a large retirement community which houses single-family homes, duplexes, four-plexes, and condo apartments for those 55+.
“I'm kind of a nut when it comes to the number of kilowatt-hours I use. I've been monitoring and cutting things for the past 10 years,” Tim explains. Since he moved into his four-plex condo, his PG&E bill has averaged $200/month and much more in the winter months.
The installation was completed by Solar Universe Diablo Valley, a Martinez, California franchise of the Solar Universe Network. He met them at a local Home and Garden show and was immediately impressed – they were very knowledgeable, with the added bonus that they were already approved to do work within the Walnut Creek retirement community. “The service was phenomenal,” Tim bragged. “I have never dealt with a company so great.” The green effects and return on investment had him sold.
The initial quote was for his unit alone. Before the project could begin, it had to be approved by the Rossmoor Homeowners Association. After waiting several months, the verdict came back: Tim would have to get approval from the other 3 homeowners in his four-plex. Tim organized a gathering with his neighbors where Solar Universe presented information about solar benefits and costs. Much to Tim's surprise, each of the 4 residents had agreed to join forces on a community solar project and after another waiting period was approved by the HOA.
The building installation took about 2 weeks on a total of 75 solar panels and was completed about 2 weeks prior to our interview. Tim's 3.15 kilowatt system was $22k before rebates and went down to $15k after federal and state rebates. PG&E, the local energy utility, has not yet come out to connect the system to the power grid, so it is hard to say exactly what the energy savings will be like. Tim and Solar Universe predict his bill to be cut by 75%. Some of the other homeowners had systems installed to cover 100% of their energy usage.
The most exciting part is the viral nature of solar. Fellow Rossmoor residents are beginning to get “the solar bug” as they watch the benefits of Tim's project in action.
“Electricity is not getting any cheaper over the years and it is going to continue to go up,” Tim explains. “We are so dependent on foreign oil and need to get off that. [With solar panels] you don't have to worry about that. It's a win-win situation: You are doing your part to keep down you carbon footprint and the return on investment is a nice reward.”