Thursday, November 1, 2007

Solar Solutions Sought For Ojai

Government loans advocated to spur energy efficiency

By Nao Braverman
With rising concerns about climate change, and the increasing cost of electricity, some of Ojai’s environmentally conscious residents are turning to solar power. But while the new energy-efficient technologies often save money and resources in the long run, not everyone can afford the pricey start-up cost.
To achieve California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020, decision makers may need to help make solar technology more accessible.
One solution, already being considered by several other California cities, is a government loan program which would finance the initial costs of solar panels for property owners who agree to pay it back over time in installments, with an assessment on their property. Such a program could be considered for Ojai, though not until the city is in a better financial position, according to city manager Jere Kersnar.
Christopher Blunt, owner of Ojai Solar Electric, a local solar panel installer, charges between $9,000 and $10,000 per kilowatt of solar energy. That means $20,000 to $40,000 for an average household using between two and four kilowatts, which can be reduced to between $13,000 and $26,000 with the $2.50 per watt state rebate, according to Blunt.
He recently installed a solar electric system in the approximately 16,000 square foot Ojai home of actor Larry Hagman.
Blunt’s company does not offer financing, nor do any other solar panel installers he knows of. But not everyone has good credit or can afford to pay a substantial down payment.
Next week Berkeley’s City Council will vote on a proposal which includes financing the cost of solar panels for property owners who can pay the city back in installments over a 20-year period, with no down payment. If the program works for Berkeley, Ojai could consider following in its footsteps one day.
For now, Ojai should be prudent and replenish its depleted reserve fund, before investing in any programs other than the most essential, according to Kersnar.
“Any time I am talking about public money I tend to be very conservative,” he said. “I prefer all the beta testing be done in other cities. I know that means we are not going to be innovative but you have less exposure to risks..”
Councilwoman Rae Hanstad agreed. “I would certainly support such incentives,” she said. “But probably on a smaller scale. I don’t think that the city has the funds to finance every home that wants to install solar panels.”
Cisco DeVries, assistant to Berkeley’s Mayor Tom Bates, explained that the actual program being considered for Berkeley wouldn’t actually cost the city, but rather serve as a go-between to help property owners afford the solar technology.
According to the plan the city would finance the installation of panels for about 25 homes to begin with and issue a bond of about $500,000 to pay the installers up front. The property owners would, in turn, pay the city back in installments, with a low interest rate. Once established, the program would be expected to sustain itself, said Alice La Pierre, Berkeley’s building science specialist.
Ojai still couldn’t jump on the bandwagon just yet even with its budget completely intact, because it is not a charter city, according to DeVries. While charter cities are able to do essentially anything the state has not told them they can’t, general law cities need authorization from the state for such a program to be put in place.
A year ago several of Ojai’s community leaders formed the Green Coalition with hopes of propelling Ojai into an environmental leadership position, setting environmental standards for other communities throughout the country and eventually the world.
But if the city can’t help people afford it now, some banks have already begun to do so.
Ojai Community Bank recently approved a program that offers favorable rates on loans for customers looking to install solar panels. Rates vary according to the situation and the recipient. But for some customers, the bank would consider issuing a loan with no down payment at all, said Shari Skinner, CEO and president of the bank.
“It’s something we really support,” she said.


oboy said...

Is it possible for the City of Ojai to say “Every new house build in Ojai has to have a minimum of one kilowatt of solar system installed”? If an average new house cost $600,000 and you add another $13,000 to this, how much more would be the monthly mortgage?

James Hatch said...

Or, what about every house that is given a permit of any type? Or every house that has any type of work done to it? Or every house that is rented out? Or every house that has occupants? Enough is enough, solar panel is a hoax, what about all the polution that goes into making the damned things?

Anonymous said...

It certainly seems strange that an Ojai ordinance that requires sprinklers in all new homes and remodels over a certain size was passed without much debate, but solar is not a requirement. Could it be that the insurance industry has better lobbyists and the solar industry has a lot of opposition by established companies such as SCE, PGE and the major oil companies? It would be my dream that our City Council would take the lead on this, especially since solar reduces our utility bills and sprinklers only add a cost (where is the reduction in insurance premiums to off-set the cost?).

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that the sprinkler requirement was a new (2007) California Building Code call-out, not just a local requirement.

If this is true, then insurance companies would not need to offer an incentive to those installing sprinklers, and that they in fact would probably penalize older construction that did not have sprinklers by charging higher rates to anyone who owned buildings not protected by any kind of fire suppression system.

No doubt that the insurance lobby is huge, though, as are the traditional energy lobbies that would like to see solar power remain an oddity and a hobby.

Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Hatch has been watching too much Fox News. I challenge him to come up with the facts to back up his claim that solar is a hoax. I have solar hot water on my home and my gas consumption dropped to nearly zero for 6 months of the year. I have a 2.5 kW solar power system on my home and my electrical power consumption dropped by about $85 per month. This is a significant reduction in energy and pollution required to provide the equivalent energy.

Any high school student knows it takes energy and the resulting pollution to make things, including putting food into what appears to be an empty head of Mr. Hatch. Please Mr. Hatch, get your facts straight before making such comments.

James Hatch said...

No doubt that less pollution is better than more pollution. But,why is it that every time liberals think something will be good, they try to regulate it and force it upon others, as if they know what is best? Why not let people, on their own volition, decide whether they will do something or not?

The point of my blog was to address the slippery slope of when something is to be regulated. Is solar panel a hoax? That was obviously hyperbole, and the extreme was used to establish that nothing comes without cost; in this instance the pollution and other side effects of creating something that is designed to benefit the environment.

I do point out the following in your blog:

I think Mr. Hatch has been watching too much Fox News. (Character Assasination: Typical left wing ploy;, ie Bush is stupid).

I challenge him to come up with the facts to back up his claim that solar is a hoax. (It is not a total solution. Can you solely rely on solar? No, as your blog proves).

I have solar hot water on my home and my gas consumption dropped to nearly zero for 6 months of the year. (How much gas are you using to heat your home in the middle of summer? The truth is, a five minute shower uses very little gas, which is another way of saying nearly zero, to heat the water. And why not use solar power to operate electric heaters for the other six months and then your gas bill would always be near zero. Oh yeah, because they don't generate enough electricity to do that).

I have a 2.5 kW solar power system on my home and my electrical power consumption dropped by about $85 per month.(From what to what? Unless it is a significant reduction, you were using to much energy in the first place and conservation, ie turning off lights when not in room, would have been sufficient in your case).

This is a significant reduction in energy (consumption?) and pollution required to provide the equivalent energy. (You're using less energy, therefore less energy has to be generated for your use? Brilliant observation, Anonymous)

Any high school student knows it takes energy (what does?)and the resulting pollution (from what?) to make things(oh, those things) including putting food into what appears to be an empty head of Mr. Hatch. (Appearance isn't everything, but thanks for the insult. I can't respond to this point because it does not make any sense)

Please Mr. Hatch, get your facts straight before making such comments. (There is no need for the Mr. It is like saying, "you are a total moron, Mr. Anonymous." Completely detatch yourself from Edison if you believe solar panel is the way).

As to Oboy, every tax adds up.

furry herbalist said...

For the record, solar can completely power a home. When I lived in New Hampshire my neighbor was living quite comfortably off the grid and that was 15 years ago - in New Hampshire!

True, he was a pioneer in the photo voltaic field, a bio-dynamic gardener, gray water recycler and an amazing guy, but he proved it could be done.

B. Dawson

Anonymous said...

I guess I have to get my two cents in on this one as it appears Mr. Hatch does not understand hot water or electric solar systems, which both pay for themselves. Unlike a regulation to install sprinklers which may have some payback only if a house catches fire, solar provides a savings in utility bills, and pollution, every month, month after month, for as long as the system lasts which is at least 20 years. So if you just don’t like being told to do something for the good off us all that will pay for itself, just say it. But don’t throw out untrue words such as it’s a hoax or try to imply that it costs more to create the system that it will save.

James Hatch said...

Just admit it, you feel safer when the government overregulates.

furry herbalist said...

My comments have nothing to do with regulation. I was disagreeing with your statement that solar was a hoax. It isn't and has extreme value, when properly applied, in reducing needs for petrochemicals and coal.

Anyone who knows me knows that I frequently quote Henry David "that government is best which governs least of all". I don't have a problem, though, with incentives, ie. tax breaks not regulation, to help consumers do the right thing.
B Dawson

James Hatch said...

Dear Fuzzy,

You are spared from the chopping block and sound more like a James Hatch supporter after all. Good for you, and way to come around! Your ability to adapt and change as the facts present themselves makes you more like James Hatch than you think.

James Hatch stands for justice, personal accountability, and for punishing criminals. More importantly, James Hatch believes that Americans should do what is right for its own sake, rather than have big brother dictate what Americans do because the government concludes it is right. Incentives are not as bad as requirements.

James Hatch stands for America's independence from radical muslims who turn a profit at the poor's expense. James Hatch believes in democracy. James Hatch believes in freedom from foreign oil.

If this solar stuff, whatever it might be, lessens our need for foreign fuel, than I am willing to consider it.

James Hatch believes that one must change and adapt, for the better, as new ideas are presented.

furry herbalist said...

Please do not count me amoung your supporters. I find you to be a bit self important for my taste.

As to "coming around", my stance on government and its role is long standing-not something I acquired thru a blog encounter!

Conservative and environmentally responsible are not mutually exclusive.

B Dawson

James Hatch said...

Dear fuzzy bear,

Your independence is refreshing, and while our opinions might not always align, I always respect those who bring thought to the bargaining table. That is what makes democracy.

As for my purported ego, it does not exist, only the truths which I have learned.

No doubt that a conservative and environmentalist can co-exist.