Learn how a family in Humboldt County, CA used solar incentives to start producing their own green energy.
For his three-bedroom, 2,300-square-foot, two-story home a mile south of Eureka, 270 miles north of San Francisco, in Humboldt Hill, an unincorporated area of Humboldt County within a mile of Humboldt Bay and two miles from the Pacific Ocean, Ian Schatz chose Westhaven Power for his solar home installation in 2020.
The operations manager at a home and commercial security system company, is delighted with the results of the solar array he purchased for his home, which is entirely surrounded by trees and bushes.
He kindly walked us through the process.
PG&E electric bill went down
“Our monthly PG&E bill for electricity is just the fees and taxes for being connected to the grid, around $25/month. Since we produce more electricity we use over the course of a year, we received a check for about $180 for excess production in 2021-22, the first billing year we were eligible, from RePower Humboldt,” says Schatz.
Since his family subscribes to its 100% solar rate plan, even if they used more energy than they produced at some point, all energy is purchased and created from solar sources.
Schatz and his spouse, who works for Humboldt county’s planning and building department, spent about $17,000 for the installation.
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The downpayment was 10% of the total parts, 90% due upon the install’s completion, with 10% retention due upon PGE taking it operational in September 2020, the month after it was installed. Since his solar panels began operating, it’s produced 12.5 MWh, he notes.
“We were only able to afford it with the Federal and state tax credits available at that time, about 22%. The tax credits were a major incentive: we probably wouldn’t have done it without them.” Purchasing the equipment, not leasing it, made sense “because we’re staying put and it controls our energy costs looking ahead to fixed-income retirement.”
Choosing an installer
He chose Westhaven because they were far more responsive than four other companies he solicited bids from, offered the second-to-best price and were founded locally in Humboldt, in the town of Westhaven. “They did a great job of communicating and scheduling, as well as performing a quality installation,” says Schatz.
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There were no problems: Westhaven presented a plan prior to approval and installation, and billed them according to the contracted price. After an online inquiry and phone consultation, a site visit, proposal, several emails and calls, then approval and scheduling of the installation followed.
“We get our fair share of fog and rain since we’re so close to the coast, even when there’s a drought, and ash collected on the panels during wildfire season a while back. Both factors reduce their power-generation a bit.”Ian SChatz
Get multiple quotes
A word to the wise: “California is VERY insistent that anyone considering solar should solicit multiple quotes from different companies, and has a bunch of consumer disclosures that each company is required to have buyers review and sign before moving forward once they select a company to work with.
You don’t want a company doing solar who doesn’t have a contractor’s licensed in the state,” Schatz cautions.
Next on his agenda: Swapping out his natural gas-fueled central heating furnace for electric heat pumps, which should save around $180 per month during the few cold months in Humboldt, by his calculation. He doesn’t have battery backup for his solar system, but plans to eventually.
He’s also ordered an electric car to utilize some of his excess energy production capacity for local transportation, a 2023 Chevy Bolt. “But if it ever makes it to market, I’ll order an Aptera,” he adds.
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