Comments by side241

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Posted on August 24 at 11:21 a.m.

Congratulations on only paying an average of 18 cents kWH! This shows that you have a far below average consumption, which can only come from conscientious usage. But are you considering all the junk fees that are tied to your kWH usage? It adds up.

In most of CA, customers are charged in 5 increasing tiers, depending on location and utility starting at 14 cents and going up to a whopping 40cents once all the junk fees are calc'ed.

When I stated that a straight cash deal would be 6 years, what I meant is that if HASBARCO was a normal cash customer like any other commercial enterprise. There are tax credits, deductions, and CSI rebates that are available to everyone, just like when you get a tax break on your mortgage, medical expenses, educational expense - even deducting for dependents. If you take any of those deductions, you take advantage of the tax code, just like everyone else.

MY JOB, at Planet Solar, is to give our customers the best value and the most thorough information available. It is why my COO is a former CPA - to make sure our customers have been made aware of every possible tool that is legally available to them, and let them and their CPA determine what applies to them.

Our design tool is created by a CPA and 14yr solar veteran, I have my CPA check it often, and my COO evaluates the tool nearly every day. Our calculations factor in the cost of replacing inverters in year 15, the 30yr historically provable inflation of 6.7% for electricity, the loss of tax write-offs from the old bill, and even deeper analysis. Our financial analysis has been certified, and I stand by our numbers.

I am surprised you denigrate my customer for putting up a solar system so he can use his AC guilt free. This guy is net zero in his electrical consumption. He is totally self-sufficient, using carbon-free solar energy to power his home. He decided he wanted to have AC, but insured that it didn't have an impact on his bill, which has the added benefit of not impacting the planet. What more could you possibly want?

Last, you infer that the panels won't last 30 years. The very first solar panel made, at Bell Laboratories in 1927ish, is still producing over 80% of it's new production. The panels put up on satellites and unmanned space explorers are still working since the 50s. These things will outlive our grandchildren.

I am sorry to hear there are still people out there that are anti-solar energy. Its certainly not the only solution, but its a tool in our arsenal towards the goal of energy independence and clean energy.

I am around town a bit, and we are very active in the community. My name is Ben Siebert, and I hope to meet you some day when we can continue this dialogue.

On Solar Project Biggest in the Country

Posted on August 23 at 2:36 p.m.

Last One from Ben at Planet Solar:

SezMe (1): The reason the entire roof wasn't filled with solar panels was that what you saw in the photo was all that was needed to completely power that building. State law limits solar systems under 1mW to offset only 110% of the power needed at that site.

SezMe (2): Mirrored Panels? SezMe is absolutely right. Module manufacturers spend millions every year in R&D to eliminate any reflection potential to the glass. It is very specialized glass that reflects as little as is technologically possible.

Birds - they poop on our panels all the time, but never fly into them. And the urban myth of birds flying into windmills, the blades move so slowly on the big turbines its not an issue, and so fast on the home-size turbines that it is seen (and heard) as a solid object. I lived four years in a bird-rich environment with a turbine and never had a bird hit it. I have no stats on this, but I am pretty confident that the number of birds killed by cars each year is a million times what is killed by wind turbines.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL DISCUSSION (Old Dawg and Don McDermott): Here is what we have found after being in the solar industry for 4 years, and energy conservation since 1983 - Its all about the money. So far, we have not had one customer who purchased solar unless it made financial sense. I have personally had someone say to me (and I quote), "Don't give me any of that tree-hugging BS, I don't give a s__t."

But that guy now has a $5 per month bill and runs his air conditioner guilt-free. And guess what - he loves to talk about how much carbon his solar system has saved from the environment. Though we have never installed a system to an environmentalist, we have created environmentalists out of the vast majority of our customers. And that is a GREAT thing for our planet.

What I LOVE about this business is that we offer win-win-win to anybody, regardless of personal ideologies or politics. If you are a Tea-Party militant conservative, there is no better investment than solar and it reduces need for foreign oil. Tree-Hugging environmentalist? Its the best thing you can do for the environment. And everyone likes to save money, but no one likes the utility monopolies. So GOING SOLAR is one of those rare opportunities where we all can find common ground.

I hope that I was able to clarify some points and answer some questions. Thanks for the opportunity.

On Solar Project Biggest in the Country

Posted on August 23 at 2:14 p.m.

More Answers to the Questions/Comments from Planet Solar (I hope I don't come across as hijacking the forum, just want to answer questions)

Santabarbarasand: You are absolutely right, if you haven't had a solar quote in over a year, you don't know how affordable Going Solar really is. I am excited that now solar panels and other materials needed have now hit the lowest level possible, so that it truly has NEVER been a better time to go solar. And any truly competent solar installer has a lease program as well, so you can Go Solar for as little as $0 down. If your bill is over $100mo, solar will save you money from day one.

However, you can't write off putting a new roof under the solar panels (unless your accountant is WAY more aggressive than mine). The roof is not there for the sole purpose of providing a mounting base for the solar, which is the requirement. HOWEVER, we did install carports who's sole purpose is to provide a mounting structure for the solar, and those carports then can take advantage of the 30% ITC and 100% Bonus Depreciation.

CharityBee: some answers to your questions: (1) the system will produce about 2,725,000kWH per year or (2) the equivalent of about $68,000 per month! Because the Housing Authority has certain rules that mandate it paying for some tenants electricity, the Housing Authority will save many thousands each month, which they can then use to help more people (and make up for all their budget cuts). (3) There is no payback period on this project, because the housing authority used none of its own money to fund this.However, if this were a private commercial project, the payback would be about 6 yrs with a Return on Investment of about 23%. Where else can you find a guaranteed return of over 20% these days? (4) See above for partial list of programs. (5) HASBARCO, or Housing Authority Santa Barbara County, is not a part of the county government. (6) Green jobs - very rough numbers here, but close. We hired 20 positions, from installers to administration and management, due to the scope of this project. We already had 10 positions that also work on this project. In the past 8 months we have paid out a bit over $1M, plus we hired local sub-contractors like electrician, tree-trimmers, electrical engineers, etc. This is not to mention that only Solarworld solar modules were used, made 100% in Cammarillo. Planet Solar is committed to keeping as much labor and expenditures as we can local. This generally has a ripple effect of 6-7 times, so one dollar paid to our guys is spent at the restaurant who buys from the local produce supplier who pays the farmer for produce, etc.

On Solar Project Biggest in the Country

Posted on August 23 at 2:10 p.m.


As the CEO of Planet Solar, I would like to clarify a few misconceptions on this string, and answer some of the many great questions here. This is an awesome project, and we are proud to be the design / build team on it. I can state that we have built this project completely on budget and within a few % of schedule, which is amazing considering the enormous complexity of this installation, as well as being the largest project of its kind in the nation. Thanks to the crews, production team, and HASBARCO team, this is a real success.

Let me address the comments concerns from the top of the string to the bottom.

SantaBarbaraDiane: There is no pork in this project at all. It was funded entirely through existing well-established programs that Planet Solar and especially Bob H at the Housing Authority brought together to create this pioneering project. This project was funded mostly through the Multifamily Affordable Solar Homes (MASH) program of the California Solar Initiative, which is administered through the utilities like Edison and PG&E. This paid for over 60% of the projects in those utility districts. The rest of the money came from the US Treasury Grant (30% of all renewable energy investment), American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, Low Income Tax Credits, and others. Rep. Capps may get pork funded, but not on this project. I say that as a fiscal conservative guy who usually leans the opposite side of the aisle from Lois.

billclausen: The 90sq miles is close - The US could provide all of its electrical needs in 2009 with a system that is 20 miles by 20 miles, or 400sq miles. That is amazing, and I think a great goal. There certainly is plenty of land all over the US to parcel that up so that the power would be generated a bit closer to where it is used.

Interesting fact - 80% of the electricity generated is lost in transmission! What is beautiful about solar on homes and businesses is that the electricity is generated where it is used - Zero losses.

DonMcDermott: I used to live exclusively on 2 solar panels and a wind generator. Wind is an awesome source of power, IF there is wind. To harness the wind, there must be AT LEAST 12mph of wind 12hrs per day, which only exists in about 6 places in CA. I love wind generators, but they won't work most places. Meanwhile, the sun shines nearly everywhere.

On Solar Project Biggest in the Country

Posted on November 1 at 11:11 p.m.

Who says solar doesn't pay back? Solar pays back the minute you flip on the switch!

Let's see.....never pay a $300 a month Electricity bill. If the system cost $20,000, that is a simple payback of a 5.5yr break-even period. Add 6% average inflation to the bill, and you have a break-even date of about 4.75 years. It simple math. Even if your electric bill is only $80 per month, and solar eliminates it entirely, eventually its paid back. The only difference to that is the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), where you pay a teeny bit less each month and some of your electricity comes from Solar instead of the grid - That is a bad idea for consumers.

Forgive me that I am the CEO of Planet Solar, so I might be biased. But there is not one bad thing about solar - its good for the environment, national security, creates jobs, and is the best investment you can make in your home (when's the last time your granite countertops paid you back?). Everyone - Republican, Democrat, Tree-Huggers and Tea-Party members, love solar, because its win, win, win.

There is one down side - it costs money to buy it. But now there are $0 down lease programs, and though they aren't perfect and its better to purchase, a lease eliminates the only obstacle preventing everyone from going solar.

On Go Solar, Goleta!

Posted on February 3 at 10:47 p.m.

WOW! I thought this movie was really enjoyable. I am also an inventor with a hit under my belt, and plenty of flops, and so much of the story were exact things I went through, so it was fun. As a film, I thought it as good or better than most of the dribble that comes out of Hollywood. Better character developement, good story, great back story, and a happy ending. And its all basically TRUE. Congrats Mike Cram. Hope to meet you around town one day.

On SBIFF '09: Closing Night's Hometown Connection

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