Going Solar- A Portland Case Study

By
Real Estate Agent with www.MadRelo.com, www.EnlighteningRealEstate.com

Going Solar- A Portland Case Study

by Brent Sainsbury Enlightening Real Estate

The city of Madison is one of about 25 solar cities in the country. Through the MadiSUN solar energy program the city promotes solar for homes and businesses. As many of you know, I recently installed a Solar PV affirming my belief that solar will play an important role in our energy future. I recently sat in on a presentation by David Sweet of Portland, Oregon about his organization Solarize NorthEast (Portland,OR) that streamlines and purchases solar systems in bulk and at a large discount. Their first phase had over 350 prospects sign up and about 150 homes that have completed or are in some stage of the insulation process. In comparison, in 2008 there were only a couple of dozen of solar projects in the city of Portland. Thanks to the purchasing power of this organization, state and federal incentives, members are paying as little as 80% of the early adapter price, a category which, sadly, I fit into. Members are paying approximately $6/watt (before state and federal incentives) for an average system rating of 2.5 Kilowatts (KW). Their predicted simple payback with incentives (the amount of time it takes the energy savings to pay for the cost of installation) is 7 years at a net cost of $1,500. In comparison I put a 4.62 KW system, paid $8/watt installed and predict a 12-13 year payback.

How did they do it? It seems neighborhood organizations played a pivotal role. David, with the help of a few dedicated volunteers, sought out neighborhood organizations, single family home owners and other members of the community using neighborhood newsletters, flyering, social network and media releases. A small grant was used to hire a website designer to set up on-line registration. Then came the challenge of choosing the contractor to install all of these panels. The organization issued a RFP (request for proposal) to solar contractors all over the Northwest. True to their environmental soul, contractors were judged on their commitment to sustainable practices, use of local products and diversity in hiring. Web registrations were divided into 3 categories. Registrants that just wanted to learn about solar were told to attend an educational seminar to decide to move forward or not. The second group knew they wanted to participant but didn't know if their property was a good applicant. One of the contractor's solar site assessors worked with this group. The final group was ready to go. After signing a contract and putting down $1,000 earnest money, the contractor's designers contacted and designed the system and placed it in a queue for the solar installers. From the time the website was up and running to the time the last panel was installed--about 8 months.

As far as I can see the benefits far outweigh the costs. The only negative response David talked about was from a solar contractor whose company did not win the RFP saying that this was the 'WalMartization of solar" and that Mom and Pop shops could not compete. On the positive side, the contractor hired 22 new installers, the city has a cleaner, more diverse energy grid, and the home owner purchasing power went further. This project has spurred the local economy and is pushing the community forward.

Links

Enlightening Real Estate

http://www.enlighteningrealestate.com/

MadiSUN

http://www.cityofmadison.com/sustainability/city/madisun/

 Solarize Northeast

http://solarize.necoalition.org/

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