Solar Power Systems

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  • Solar Lease Opinions

    Apr 1, 2024

    Hello. We are considering a solar lease, as a purchase may not be feasible at this time. We understand that we would not get the tax credit. The solar company would therefore install and maintain the panels. We would have the option of buying the system at year 6 at fair market value, basically never having to pay for installation, and we would still get to use utilize NEM compensation. The sticking point right now is that the lease involves a 25-year agreement, with the rate increasing 2.99% per year. We did the math, and by year 25 the rate would still be competitive. But we just don't like the idea of being beholden to the company for 25 years if we don't purchase the system. Has anyone else done this? Is it really not that big of a deal? We would love to hear others' experiences. Thank you!

    There are very few situations under California's current net metering where a solar lease makes any sense, in my opinion. Even a loan is hard to make pencil out right now, and there you would at least get the tax credit. What you are talking about sounds like a solar power purchase agreement (PPA), where you pay a set rate per kWh produced whether you use that power or not, and that rate increases by a percentage each year (often 2.99%). In the winter months in the Bay Area, you likely won't produce enough power to cover your usage, so you'll still need to buy power from PG&E. In the summer months, you may well be producing more than you need, so you'll be paying the solar company for power you didn't use. Under the state's current net metering, you don't get to bank that power for future use as you did under the NEM 2.0 system--instead, it just goes back to the grid and PG&E pays you for that power at wholesale rates, which are a fraction of what you had to pay the solar company for the same power. This assumes you do have a sizable battery so are capturing as much of that power as possible for use in the evenings, but there's a limit to how much you can store. Make sure you really do your research before signing on to something like this--and don't be afraid to ask for more (for instance, you can ask for a lower starting cost per kWh and a 0% escalator instead of 2.99%). Also be aware that the state is set to approve a plan soon that will add a fixed rate to all bills and reduce the cost per kWh to implement an assembly bill passed a couple of years ago that requires fixed income-based electricity fees. The proposal from the CPUC is a fixed fee of $24/month with discounted rates available for low-income households, and lower per kWh electricity costs for all households. This will change the math on solar leases and loans as well. In your shoes, I would wait until you're in a position to purchase the system--unless you're building a new home or doing a renovation that requires solar, there's no rush.

    OP here: Thank you for that information! I probably should have mentioned that we have an approved NEM 2.0 application from last year, so we'd still get that, but time is of the essence because the solar company won't wait much longer to install, and thus we'd lose our NEM2.0 if they cancelled the contract. A battery is not part of our current contract. Would these facts change your view at all?

    We bought a system directly for our old house and loved it. We moved to a house with a leased system a couple of years ago and do not love it. We had to have the roof redone and coordinating the process with the solar leasing company was a huge pain in the neck and it was expensive. Also, we cannot upgrade the system for our needs as we convert the house slowly to electrical appliances, or add on a battery system. I do not recommend leasing. If you can, purchase the system outright. 

    Previous poster here—yes, if you have an approved NEM 2.0 application, I do think it makes sense to move forward with solar if you can...although still not necessarily with a lease. The math is definitely better if you can bank your NEM credits, but some of the pitfalls are still the same, especially if there's a possibility that the system will produce more than you use. PG&E allows you to transfer your NEM 2.0 application to another installer and it is 100% worth getting some additional quotes if you're at all close to being able to buy outright or with financing--should be quick because you can't modify the approved application materially, so you're basically just asking them to quote you for the same system size. The cost per watt has come down enormously since the NEM 2.0 rush last year. You don't need a battery under NEM 2.0 (and you can always add one later). Depending on your finances, you might also consider a loan if you think you might be able to pay it off sooner rather than later. If you do want to consider transferring your application, definitely reach out to the PG&E solar hotline. Unlike some of the other arms of PG&E, the staff there are actually quite helpful and you usually get a live person. They can talk you through your options. Good luck!

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  • Solar System Repair Company

    Aug 19, 2023

    Does anyone have any recommendations for solar system repair companies? The solar system on our Berkeley home stopped producing power after 7 years & needs a new inverter. The company that installed it is no longer in business. The first repair company we contacted came out quoted us $8,500 for the repair. At this price point, it isn’t worth it to us to repair it as our full price electricity bills are only about $1,000 per year. Does anyone know of a company that will replace an inverter or repair a system for a more reasonable cost?

    We’ve called around and haven’t had luck getting anyone to call us back or provide estimates for the work. We already paid a company over $500 for a couple hours of work to diagnose the issue, so I think the problem diagnosis is correct. Thanks!

    Sun Light and Power replaced our SMA string inverter (sounds like probably a similar size to your system) for about $2,500 in 2021.  It was already over 15 years old before it failed; seven years sounds really short!   Have you contacted the manufacturer?  Not sure what the warranty is these days, but again seven years sounds like a pretty premature death.

    I suspect prices for any solar services may be higher these days just because solar companies are so busy with all the folks who rushed to sign contracts before the new CPUC net metering changes went into effect earlier this year, so that might be contributing to that shockingly high estimate..

    Hi, I've referred our solar guy to a few people on BPN and they've been very happy. We worked with him to install a new system at our house, but I know he does repairs as well. His experience, knowledge, and prices are top notch, and he's not pushy at all. I'd suggest you send him an email or give him a call, let him know your situation, and see if he'll give you an estimate. His name is Mike Kleeman, phone is 925-334-4959, and email is mkleeman [at] You can let him know that Dan S. referred you.

  • Hi there.  I'm wondering if there are any landlords here who have had experience installing solar on their apartment buildings.

    We own a 4-unit apartment building in Oakland, and we want to do the right thing and install solar panels to help reduce the building's energy use, but we're struggling with how to fairly do that, as the tenants each have their own PG&E account and are responsible for their own electricity/gas consumption.  I gather that landlords are prohibited from charging tenants for actual electricity or gas usage. Thus, why buildings typically have multiple meters and each tenant is obliged to set up their own PG&E account. 

    At any rate, I'd love to have a brief chat with anyone here who has managed to install solar on their apartment building. And I'd be particularly keen to understand how they recouped the cost of the install.   Did they simply raise the rent on everyone in order to finance the $40k-$50k required for the upgrade? Did they redraft lease agreements and take on responsibility for all gas/electric usage in their building? If so, did they oblige tenants to pay some additional fee based on actual usage?    We want to be fair and equitable, but we also can't afford to foot these costs on our own.  

    Thanks for any and all suggestions!

    Thanks for trying to do the right thing. Youre not the only person with these questions. I’m very interested to see the responses because I’m a tenant and I wish that my landlady would have solar installed on our 7-unit building. Alternatively, I wish that tenants could get financing (preferably up-front) or rebates for solar panel electric vehicle charger installation. Renters currently have cable and fiber-optic internet infrastructure connected to their individual units. Could one or more solar panels be connected to a specific unit and PG&E account?  Many of us in the Bay Area are renters but it seems like only people who are homeowners and also able to  spend money and then wait for a rebate can get solar panels and/or electric vehicle charging stations. 

    Not really an answer to your question, but one consideration is that in northern California the most useful thing you can do environmentally is to switch everything to electric -- stoves, space heating, water heating. Our grid is fairly clean already, and your tenants have the option to choose an all-renewables mix (I would think you could also give them a rebate for choosing that, if you wanted).  Switching to electric doesn't create the same kind of issues in terms of shifting a cost from tenants to landlord, though of course it's still $$$ and you have to figure out how to handle the cost of the improvements.  

  • Solar install on clay tile?

    Mar 1, 2023

    Looking for recommendations for a solar installer on an old clay tile roof.  Many contractors are unwilling to work on these roofs due to the tiles cracking and breaking when walked upon, so I'd love to get some help finding a good solar installer who's willing to work on this type of roof.  Thanks!

    We had solar installed on our tile roof about five years ago by Bill Wong at Interstate Roofing and Solar. They did a fantastic job, and I would highly recommend them. We needed to have the original (90 year-old) roof replaced and decided it was time to add solar while they were at it. They removed all the tiles, replaced the underlying felt material, installed solar panels, and put back the necessary tiles around the solar panels. 

    Yes, West Coast Solar works with clay roofs. In fact, they have a roofing contractor license, which should give some reassurance that they are well-equipped to take this on. I used them for our home and recommend them highly. Try reaching out to Mike Kleeman at mikek [at] or 925-334-4959. He's a former roofer who know does residential solar for West Coast Solar and can talk you through the risks, options, etc. Let him know that Dan S. referred you.

  • Seeking recommendations for excellent solar power companies, and any advice for which equipment options to go for, or any other recommendations. Got quotes from energy sage but totally overwhelmed by the choices, and trying to get into contract before the April deadline to get the beneficial rates under current CA law before the change. 

    Is there anything you learned during solar install process that you wish you knew in advance? Things that worked out well, or things you would've done differently? Or just worked with a great company that had good prices? I would love to learn from your experience! Thank you so much!! 

    Went through this last October. Had quotes from Sunrun, SunPower, and a third smaller installer I don't remember. SunPower was the best price and went into the most detail for what we would need in a system. Installation was very efficient and well done, and we're very happy with the final result. SunRun had horrible aggressive marketing tactics (literally would call every hour), and that really put me off. They were also over-priced.

    What I would have done differently is increased the system more than they recommended, as we only had just moved in and didn't have a full year of power statements, and so while we're not undersized, there's not a lot of room for further electrification of the house.

    We used Albion Solar, and couldn't have been more pleased with them. I would go with them again in a heartbeat.

    We also used energy sage and went with what seemed like a reliable company. They said we did not need a new roof and we were glad to hear forward three years and there was a very, very heavy couple of days of rain and water poured into our living room from where the solar installation is! Long story short, our roof was shot AND they had not installed the proper flashing and stanchions so water had been leaking a little into the roof crawlspace and then, with the big rain into the house!!! It took months to resolve. In the end, they came out and took off the solar and put it back on while we got a new roof from a company we trusted. The ceiling had some damage which ended up not costing much to fix. What a hassle! I am glad to have solar but make sure your roof is in good shape and that the installation is done properly to avoid leaks. 

    Stay away from Sunrun. I had a terrible experience with their salesperson trying to sell me their “leasing” option, something I had no interest in. They have oddly good reviews on google which is strange. I’m looking forward to hearing about positive reviews of other solar power companies.

    Such a great question. We've had a great experience going solar, thanks to a ton of research and lots of advice. Here are some things to look out for: (1) You should look into the company and make sure they are profitable. You don't want to contract with them and then have them go out of business a year or 2 later - it'll be a lot harder to get your warranty honored. I asked for financial information and did some background research, (2) They should be willing to answer all of your questions in writing. If you email them questions and they don't respond or call you back, that's a red flag, (3) The contract they send you should give you notice of your right to cancel within 3 days of signing. That's the law in CA, and if they don't give you notice of your right to cancel, it raises red flags of what else they are hiding, (4) You should ask them what the installation timeline looks like. Some will sign the contract right away and then make you wait months to get the panels installed, (5) Most people don't need a battery. They are super pricey and will only really help you during a blackout, which is helpful if you have a medical device that needs to be powered overnight (like a CPAP machine), (6) Most people will use more electricity once they get solar, because they leave the lights on more, run the a/c more, etc. The solar company should add about 10-15% of additional power behind what you use pre-solar. It is far more expensive to add additional panels later, rather than as part of the initial contract, (7) If your roof is old(er) and will be replaced soon, you should should take care of that first. A good solar company will be able to inspect your roof for you, for free, and give you an objective recommendation. Same with your main breaker panel - they should tell you if you need to make any upgrades, (8) You should ask what happens if the system doesn't produce as much power as you're promised in your contract. A good solar company will make up the difference by literally cutting you a check for the excess power, (9) You should ask who does the installation - their own employees or do they subcontract it out? which is a red flag (10) And perhaps most importantly, you should do this as soon as you can. As you might know, NEM 3.0 has been approved, which makes it significantly less appealing to go solar. You should get your contract signed and application submitted to PG&E asap so that you can get grandfathered into NEM 2.0, which has much better terms. A good solar company will explain this to you and should make a commitment in writing that they will take the steps required to get you NEM 2.0.

    Since you asked about companies with good prices, we ended up going with West Coast Solar. They checked all the boxes, including the ones I mentioned above. The salesperson was referred to by us and I've passed along his name to many happy neighbors. The price is also right, especially for what you get in return, which are high quality panels, quick turnaround time, and great customer support. If you want to reach out, his email is mikek [at] (mikek[at]westcoastsolar[dot]com). If you do end up reaching out to him please just let him know that he was recommended to you by me. I could go on and on about this for hours, so reach out to me if you have other questions or want to chat.

    Oh my yes do I have advice to give.  Just about two years ago I was in the same place as you with all those bids from EnergySage.  I chose a company (NRG) based on positive reviews and a solid quote.  Well over a year after signing contract with them without a completed system, I have so much regret.  They are the worst in every possible way.  They subcontracted the whole operation out.  Which would be fine if they somehow kept tabs on what was happening.  They had no clue.  Communication has and continues to be awful.  One of their subcontractors caused damage and they made me fight tooth and nail, gaslighting me for months, until they finally acquiesced and at least promise to take the damages off my final bill.  Which hasn't happened yet because they can't seem to finish the job.  If I had to do it again, I'd never go with a national or large solar outfit.  I'd find a local contractor who does all the work themselves.  You won't find a local contractor on EnergySage.  Looking here on Berkeley Parents is a good idea.  

    We went with A-1 Solar and were extremely happy with them. They were efficient, competitively priced, and kept us informed throughout.

  • Solar panel install increase home value?

    Any realtors out there or recent home sellers have any experience with whether solar panels increase home values?   I’m on the fence on an install but it’s not really cost-effective unless we add an Electric vehicle.  We’re in El Cerrito if it matters.

    I did see a LBNL study saying that buyers were willing to pay a premium of $15,000 for a home with the average-size solar photovoltaic system (3.6 kilowatts, or 3,600 watts), compared with a similar home without one.


    If you are talking about a leased solar panels, they are a negative for home value. The subsequent buyer is forced to take on your lease, which was optimized for your power usage. Owned panels are a positive, but have a negative return on investment.

  • Can anyone recommend a company to remove Tesla solar panels I own and reinstall them on a standing seam roof?

    We had to do this although not with Tesla panels. We ended up actually having the original solar installation company come back to remove and then replace the panels. It was kind of a headache logistically but nobody else wanted to touch them. 

  • Roof and solar panels

    Dec 29, 2022

    Our roof is almost 20 years old. The recent rain is reminding us we should replace the roof. We are told it’s good to do roof and solar work at the same time. Do you have experience with a good outfit that can handle both? 

    Thank you. 

    We used Bill Wong at Interstate Roofing and Solar about six years ago to replace our roof and install solar. He is great, and I'd highly recommend him. He's probably very busy now. Yes, it's good to do them both at the same time. We waited to install solar until our roof needed replacing. 

    We had a great experience with Albion solar, who worked with Berkeley Roofing company to do the roof and solar as one job.

    We felt the same way and did both with one contractor. I regret this decision.

    PROS: A) One contract, so a bit cheaper. B) Not having to notify the solar company to schedule once the roof was done.

    CONS: 1) The solar company just ended up sub-contracting with a roofer. We had no say in who they chose. 2) Communication always went through the solar company, not directly with the roofer. Wasn't clear who our roofing project manager or point of contact was. Roofer made some mistakes and the "telephone" game of having to go through the solar installer made it worse and harder to get those mistakes fixed. 3) Contract was 95% geared towards the solar equipment and installation, and so the obligations/requirements on the roofing part of the work was a lot grayer.  

    If I could do it again, I'd just contract with two separate entities. The solar company can install when the roofing is done; roofs only take about 2-3 days.

    We used Pacific Coast Roofing for our roof two years ago and they are outstanding.…

    I'm not sure they do solar paneling, but you can check.  I highly recommend them.  Other past customers give them 5 star ratings for reliability, expertise,  customer service and cost.  Great company to work with. 

    Hello, we had solar installed about 2 years ago and couldn't be happier with the results. I strongly recommend reaching out to our sales rep, Mike Kleeman, at West Coast Solar (mikek [at] (mikek[at]westcoastsolar[dot]com)). In addition to being local and literally writing the book on solar v. PG&E (you can find his book on Amazon), he is a roofer by training, which makes him very knowledgeable about all your options. Several other companies told us we had to get our roof repaired/fix first, at significant cost, but Mike came out (for free), did the inspection himself, and ultimately saved us $10k+. His quote was the most reasonable, the most detailed (with everything in writing, including answers to my 30+ questions), and they had the fastest installation time. After the installation, he himself came by our house several times to make sure everything was running as it should, to make sure we knew how to use their monitoring app, and to answer any questions we had. I really can't recommend him or his company enough. If you do end up reaching out to him please just let him know that he was recommended to you by me. I'm sure he'd also be able to answer any questions you have and he'll give you a very honest assessment as to whether solar makes sense for your situation. You can also reach out to me if you have any questions or want to chat more.

  • We are considering adding solar but recently heard about the PGE(?) requirement that gas meter and main service electrical panel are 3 feet apart (I don't think ours are).

    Looking into it a bit, it seems there may be a long (12-month) delay into getting PGE to move the gas meter and it could cost >$10,000.

    Has anyone else dealt with this issue and, if so, any info or advice to share? We're in Albany.

    Thanks so much.

    This isn't the same as your situation, but we are doing a project right now that requires us to move our gas meter, so maybe this will be helpful.  We put in the request in October to get on PG&E's schedule, and it is now almost 8 months later and we still do not have a date when they are coming out, which means our contractor is on hold till they give us a date.  PG&E did finally send us a contract a few days ago for a mind-blowing $20K which has to be paid before they will schedule us. We had no. idea. it would be this expensive.

    The worst part is that we originally thought PG&E would just be capping off and then reconnecting the gas line that runs from our house, where the meter is, under the driveway and down to the street. We need to replace a failing retaining wall and excavate part of the driveway, so we needed PG&E to come out and cap off the line while the work was being done. It never occurred to us that the gas meter would have to be moved. For one thing, the work we are doing is down at the street level, and the meter is uphill on the house. But the other thing is, PG&E replaced our gas meter less than a year ago to try to fix a different problem, so presumably it's to code (and there are multiple electric and solar boxes). Nevertheless, during the past 8 months as we have waited to be scheduled, there have been dozens of emails and phone messages between us and PG&E, with lags of several weeks between responses, telling us different things: meter can stay where it is, meter needs to move a foot away from where it is, meter must be located down at the street, meter must be installed in the driveway. This last suggestion came with a sketched meter + bollards superimposed on top of the architectural plans we'd given them. It stuck out into the driveway such that a car would still fit, but the doors could not be opened all the way (!!!)  We even had a visit from a PG&E engineer who measured everything and assured us the meter could stay on the house.  But that was eventually overruled. Finally we came up with a plan to create an alcove in one of the retaining walls for the meter, just next to the sidewalk, which satisfied PG&E, at which point they eventually sent us a contract. 

    Our understanding is that PG&E prefers the gas meter to be as close to the gas main as possible, partly for better access, but also because it is the homeowner who is responsible for maintaining the line that runs from the meter to the house. PG&E is only responsible up to where the meter is. So that's why, when they need to do anything to the gas line, they want to move the meter closer to the street at the same time. It's more economical for them since they are no longer responsible for that stretch of gas line between the street and the house.

    Anyway, back to your issue, I would definitely ask the solar installer about their experience with this - it seems like something they must run into all the time.  I would explore every possible other option before moving a gas meter. 

    We had this issue dozens of years ago. Not concerning solar, but simply the requirement of the space between the gas meter and the electric meter. The solution was to build a box with a door around the gas meter. You could ask to see if this solution is still feasible.

    Wow! PG&E is just making it more and more difficult to go solar. Here is a great post on the Tesla community board that might be helpful:…

    We recently put in solar and were warned that our gas meter is too close to the main electrical panel; however, PG&E did not say anything about it, approved our installation, and we just flipped the switch yesterday! If you are willing to risk it, you could go that route and keep your fingers crossed...

  • We are due for a roof replacement and I'd like to finally add solar panels to our home. Does anyone have any recent experience with doing both through a single contractor that they'd recommend? Would love to just get 3 quotes, instead of 6! Or does it make more sense to do each job separately? Am open to hearing about what others have gone through... Thank you! 

    We used Albion Solar as our solar installer and our general contractor. They worked with Berkeley Roof Services (aka Westco). It was an excellent decision; both service providers are terrific, and it was wonderful to have Albion coordinate all the aspects of the work and make sure that everything was ready for the panels and other materials.


    We went with NRG Solar for this and we chose them over other solar providers BECAUSE they offered roof and solar together. I regret it profoundly. What that ended up meaning was that they subcontracted the roof work, it wasn't really "in house" - so we were relying on their project managers to coordinate with the roofers, rather than having access to them ourselves. One of the project managers who worked with us was fired for her poor performance. My dad was roofing a workshop in his backyard at the same time and the roof didn't pass inspection because the roofers didn't flash properly. NRG also signed a contract with us and then reneged and would only do the work if we signed a new contract that was something like $10,000 more (they used the online square footage of our house rather than taking actual measurements and failed to account for a 3-4' overhang all around). We ended up getting a different roofer, Richard Kang, who was decent but it was also at a premium price and two years later, we are still waiting on connecting a final drain pipe, and our yard was littered with roofing nails for months afterward (our yard is a bit wild and messy, so I will acknowledge that it is not the easiest area to clean up, but it was still a concern with our small children running around outside all the time). Coordinating the roofer and the solar took a little bit of doing, but it wasn't the worst thing. I will say that we interviewed Jason Hamilton at Earthwise Energy, and I wish we'd gone with him. He does not do roofs, but he works in concert with roofers. His bid was more expensive up front, but my sense was he is very invested in doing things the right way, and what we learned through our two year odyssey of trying to install solar was that other companies seemed to have odd ways of lowballing up front and then changing it (one company, Ally Electric, added several thousand dollars worth of taxes to the contract that were not in their initial bid). Anyway, I found it to be a miserable process, but we are very happy with our solar and I feel relieved not to have to deal with the roof again for another 20 years (hopefully!) Wishing you the best of luck!! 

  • Hi everyone,

    The recent rain has exposed some serious issues with our roof. Unfortunately, it sounds like we'll need the full roof replaced. We were hoping to wait a few years until we did a larger remodel, but that's not in the cards. Our long-term dream is to add solar -- and now we're wondering if we should take the plunge while the roof is being installed anyways? It would require some electrical work too (we'll need to update our panel, at minimum) so it seems like a rather big undertaking, especially since we have an infant.

    I'd love to hear from anyone who upgraded simultaneously with a roof replacement and also from folks who added solar later on. What are the pros and cons here? How involved (and lengthy) was the installation process? Frankly, even the idea of coordinating roofers, solar installers, and an electrician sounds exhausting, but I would hate to throw money away if we're going to end up installing solar in the next couple of years anyways. Appreciate any insight into this process and how we should proceed here. TIA!

    I heard that if you pay $1,000 extra to SunPower when you have them install solar panels, then they'll remove the panels before you get a new roof, and then put the panels back on when the new roof is on. They guaranty their work.

    I suggest you check to see if this is correct. I worked with Dylan DeHondt (832)350-0153) at SunPower when I had my panels installed and he was very good.

    I understand it is ideal to do solar panel install at time of roof replacement.

    I'm sorry to add to your anxieties around the project, but the California Public Utility Commission is about to change the compensation approach for rooftop solar and it will undoubtedly be less economic for homeowners--potentially much less.  To enroll under current compensation, you need to have a project in the queue (NOT completed, but documentation started) ASAP; probably no later than May 2022

    We just added solar on our roof and it took a day. My baby was even able to sleep through the work (though it was loud). I wouldn’t worry about the installation timing as a factor in your decision. I have also read that it’s very easy to do with a new roof too as a lot of the companies can do both.

    The CPUC and PG&E are going to change some net metering rules soon so you’ll have a better buy back rate on the energy you produce if you get in with the current rates. 

    We considered Solar too but put the project on hold.  I heard taxes/fees on electricity from solar is increased or about to be increased in Cali so the calculation of how long it will take you to get back the cost of adding solar via electrical bill saving is really changing. For us, we were going to add solar to save on electric bill and it seems to no longer make sense so we are waiting to see what happens.  If you can afford to do it without electricity bill savings then that’s not an issue but it caused an issue for us, so something to look into before spending the money.  

    I would recommend installing the solar and re-roofing at the same time with the same contractor. We used Interstate Roofing & Solar (Bill Wong, 510-639-0833), who did the whole job almost five years ago. They gave us a slight credit on the roof portion by combining all the work. Also, by having a roofer who knows solar do the whole job, there is no finger pointing if problems arise. We had no issues. Bill Wong is an established professional and easy to work with. I would highly recommend him. In fact, he is usually so busy that now he usually only does roof work combined with solar installation. We used Bill Wong 14 years ago on a different house for installing a new roof only - no solar. This was before solar was a thing. He was competitively priced and did a great job, so we went with him again with our current house. We are very happy with our new roof and solar. 

    We moved into our place over the summer and had to replace the roof and the electrical. We decided to add solar while we were at it. TBH it was very manageable (or as manageable as those projects can be). The solar company really wanted us to go with their roofer so they could coordinate but we went with someone else and it worked out fine.

    As for timing, I’d recommend ASAP if you can. The Cal PUC is considering a new solar rule (“NEM 3.0”) that makes solar a lot less attractive from a cost-benefit standpoint. As of now, I believe people with existing systems before the effective date (likely May) will have a 10-year grace period before being forced to switch to the new prices. We’ll see what happens; Newsom suggested the proposal needs revisions and Schwarzenegger wrote a scathing op-ed but the PUC is an independent agency and the utilities hold a lot of sway. 

    We added solar panels to our backyard cottage and then had to replace the roof and solar panels when a neighbor's tree fell into the yard.  The roof-and-solar replacement took a fair amount of coordination between the solar people and the roofers -- luckily, we were able to use a roofer recommended by the solar folks, and they worked it all out.  Given that solar installers and roofers (and electricians) seem to be pretty booked these days, you might want to consider the logistical challenges if you try to do it all at once.  If I recall, the solar installation alone took maybe two days to put up the panels, and then some time for inspection and PG&E paperwork before it actually went live.  Thanks to the coordination, we were able to get the roof-and-solar replacement done in about a week (with a small roof).  I don't know that you'd save that much money by doing the roof and solar at the same time.

    We just went through this decision process ourselves and after some research and talking to a lot of neighbors who already went solar, getting different solar PV and roofing only quotes, we decided to go with a Tesla Solar Roof (solar shingles are integrated with glass roof shingles so there are no standalone "panels"). We needed to replace our 20+ year old leaky and moldy roof entirely, and also wanted to go solar as you mentioned, but had a hard time finding PV contractors that would simultaneously remove old/install a new roof with the solar PV panels. So after witnessing two recent installs in our neighborhood and talking to those neighbors, we decided to take the plunge and just finished the install last week with a beautiful shiny (but expensive) new solar roof.

    Most of the process can be done online, with some follow-up calls for scheduling, and the install process took about 1 full week with a team of 6-7 installers. My understanding is that it'll take a couple more months for the inspection to be done and before PG&E allows us to power it on. The install was quite construction-intensive (lots of vehicles, a dumpster, equipment loading), noisy and disruptive with electricians needing to come inside to access our attic and garage - but Tesla will coordinate all the estimating, permitting, electrical work, install and inspection so that part is easy. A few economics-related things to keep in mind: how much electricity you're using now and in the near future (e.g., if you want to get a electric car later), your billing schedule since all PG&E customers will be shifted to time-of-use rates (if you haven't already) this year, and CA Public Utilities Commission is about to decide IF solar residential consumers will need to start paying a monthly fee in 2023 for accessing the grid and reducing the rate you get for selling your excess electricity back to the grid. Happy to share some resources and chat more offline about our experience so far.

    We replaced our roof when we installed solar last year. It was bit more work to schedule but it was totally worth it. There was a 26% federal tax credit for not only the solar but roof replacement too. If you need to have any big trees on the property trimmed to get more sun exposure for the panels, that also qualifies for the tax credit. I used Got Watts Solar and Electric for the solar install and panel up grade. 

    We used Albion Solar… as our general contractors to replace our roof (with Berkeley Roofing) and install the panels at the same time. They have an electrical engineer on staff; they upgraded our panel, oversaw the roofing job, and integrated the solar panels and infrastructure into the overall job. They did a fantastic job! 

    Installing solar panels comes with a tax credit which applies to the work needed to install the panels. You can talk to them more about it.

    We replaced our roof and upgraded our electrical panel during the first month of our first child's life. The roof replacement was loud but easy / not terribly disruptive. It was maybe a week of work. Replacing the electrical panel was less ideal because we did not have power the while work was happening. I would avoid doing that if you're home all day.

    There's no need to do solar at the same time as the roof. We did our panels about 3-4 years after we replaced the roof. It was no big deal to do it at that point. If you don't have the money or energy for that now, just wait until you do.

    I’m not sure it would change the price at all to do roof and solar at the same time vs. roof first and then solar later. What you definitely want to avoid is doing the solar and then having to take off the panels to re-roof because that is pricey! It’s also worth considering the warranty of the roof vs. warranty of panels. The panels loose some effectiveness after about 20 years. Due to a significantly leaky roof (picture pots and pans and buckets all over our apartment!) after about 10 years we needed to pull them off and re-roof. Someone who had more money may have chosen to buy a new array at that time but we couldn’t afford it so just put the old panels back on. In other words if you decide to wait on the solar don’t wait too long! We used Sun First Solar and Berkeley Roof Services. We also got a metal roof which had a slightly higher up front cost but will last much longer (guaranteed for 50 years).

    I would add solar at the same time as the roof. Keep in mind that the state is about to come up with new refund rules. So you'd want your system to "future proof" against that. What does that mean? they are proposing a 15 year grandfathering from the time its connected to the grid - you have precious little time to sneak in before that. Failing that, make sure you get enough battery storage so you're not exposed to the proposals outrageous charges to feed back to the grid.

    Personally, I would try to do that asap, before the economics change too much, but with roofers currently busy (its their high season, as you can tell, many people found problems with their roof with the recent rains) and the times to get electrical and solar permits, its going to take a while.

    We added solar panels to our roof in November.  We had a different but related problem: should we replace the roof first?  I had a couple of people (a local roofer, a roof inspection company, and the solar installer) look at the roof and they all agreed they couldn't tell how old the roof was but probably had at least 10 years of life left.  We opted not to replace the roof.  That means we'll probably need to replace the roof within the panels' lifetime, which probably means paying the solar installer $1000-$2000 to remove and replace the panels when we do that.  In the end, the solar install took about a day's worth of time over two days (16 solar panels, no replacement electrical panel or batteries).  The process took longer (maybe 2 months) as they have to do design and get permits and agreements signed, but none of that impacted us at home.

    Everyone I spoke to agreed that if we do the roof and solar at the same time, it's easy to coordinate the roofer and solar installer.  If I remember right, the solar folks just come by at a particular point during the roof work to install some brackets or something and it doesn't take very long.  But I share your skepticism -- coordinating one contractor is often hard enough!  Some solar installers have a roofer that can re-roof as part of the job.  Our installer was also an electrician and had a roofer on staff.  If we'd needed a new electrical panel, he would have done that too.

    Is it better to do the solar at the same time?  The roofer seemed to think so because they can put the brackets right where they want them.  But he also said it's totally fine to add solar later.  I gather a lot of people add solar panels to existing roofs.  You just might have to pay to have the panels temporarily removed when you replace the roof next time.

    There's one unrelated reason you might consider solar now: it's expected that California will change the way net metering works in a few months and this will make it much less financially worthwhile to get solar.  The current plan will grandfather in anybody who activates their new solar system before the change.  There's a lot of fear-mongering from solar companies about this, and I can't say what's right or wrong, but I think it's a real factor if you're considering solar in the near future.  This seems to be a reasonably balanced article about it.

    Good luck!

    So we had exact same issue.  Just purchased in 2021 and lived in the house for 1 year and had no issues with leaks in the 20 plus year old roof till this rainy season hit.  First leak was in our renovated bathroom and then even after trying to patch it up we had another leak in the same area.  After that decided that we would change the roof and add made sense to add solar panels.  Check out the city of Berkeley website as they have links to the sunshares program that vets 3 companies per year and where many Bay Area counties have negotiated prices at reduced rates.  

    The caveat is that it may only run in the fall from august to November but the 3 companies are listed at the website:

    the company that we went infinity energy as they were the cheapest and also changed our roof (they just finished yesterday) they received the permits and will hopefully be installing next month the 16 REC solar panels generating 8738 kWh/ per year plus upgraded main panel. Enough to power all computers appliances in the house plus 240 volt outlets needed to fast charge an electric car and power electric washing machine and dryer.  The car is something we plan to upgrade in the next year or so.  The cost was approximately 22k for solar panels, main panel and 240 volt plugs (also 2021, 2022 have 26 percent tax refund so it will end up costing 16.5k and a little less than 11k for the roof replacement.   Not a big house so covering only about 1100-1200 square feet.  They get all the permits from the city for all the work which was included in the costs.  

    what I liked was dealing with one company that would be responsible for the roof and solar (25 year warranties for most of items.) 

  • We are considering getting solar panels on our home (and replacing the roof so that it will last as long as the solar panels do).  Asking acquaintances for recommendations, I ended up talking to two companies (Pace Avenue and Straight Talk Solar) that seem to act as brokers for these services:  they advise you about designing the improvements you want, and then THEY find the contractors to provide the services.  Normally I would just do my own footwork and find the best combination of reputable/local/affordable contractors on my own, but the broker approach seems a lot cheaper AND possibly easier.  Still, it makes me nervous!  Does anyone have any experience with this, pro or con?

    I am also continuing my own research, so:  Does anyone have updated recommendations for a great solar-panel installation company?


    My sister who is an excellent analyst and researcher found Solar Technologies in San Ramon to be the best company in the Bay Area. Both she and my parents installed panels in their Berkeley homes. We are currently in the queue to have panels installed on our roof. 
    Contact Nick Bahrenburg at 510-417-0460 or nick [at] He is the absolute best consultant. No pressure tactics and all about educating the consumer.  

    it’s been two years for my sister and no problems at all. 

    Good luck!

    I recently installed solar and would be glad to share what I found in my research.  Before you have the roof done, make sure they run the wiring for solar before the panels go on.  With everyone selling solar I looked at about 15 proposals.  To offset 100% of my PG&E bill I was quoted $22,000 to $62,000.  If you go with a broker they will hire the cheapest installer and tack on another $3,000 to $8,000 for fees.  

    The other issue you have using a broker is they aren't liable or responsible for any problems.  Read the reviews and horror stores from posters.  The broker promises one thing and the installer does something else.  You call the broker who then has to try and deal with the installer to make it "right".  

    I was referred to "Steve, the Solar Guy".  Steve was great and did a wonderful job.  I just had one person to deal with from start to finish.  From permit to getting permission to operate took less than a month with Steve.  (I've read reviews where people are saying it took them 60 or 90 days to get permission to operate.)

    I would highly recommend Steve.  He's been installing solar of 30 years and has installed over 3,000 solar systems in the Bay Area.  He's tells you what you need, and doesn't try to up-sell you.  If you are willing to work with him to get the plans and building permit you can save another $5,000.  (For me this involved two trips to the city offices to get the building permit.)  Total cost for my system was just under $14,000.  (And this is before the federal tax credit).  This is for 6 additional panels Steve said I didn't really need.  I just looked and since January I have $616.32 in energy credit dollars with PG&E to "buy" electricity in the winter months.

    If you are a PG&E customer and an iPhone/iPad user I would strongly encourage you to get the "PG&E Toolkit" app.  You will want this app to figure out solar.  This is crazy, but PG&E has 12 different rate plans for residential customers.  Just by changing rate plans we saved $600 per year on our PG&E bill before going solar. Used the app for my MIL and just by changing rate plans, (no solar) she's saving $140 off her yearly bill.

    This is something the Solar Companies will not tell you.  They will show you a "before solar" quote with you being on the highest cost rate plan with PG&E.  Then for the "after going solar" they will put you on a lower cost rate plan which makes it look like installing solar will save you a lot of money.  The majority of the savings is the rate plan change and not going solar.  The app will show you this.

    Going with Steve my system will have paid for itself in just under 5 years.  (The solar companies were telling it would take 8-13 years to break even.)

    Bottom line.  I would NOT go with a broker.
    Give "Steve the Sola Guy" a try.  I gave him 5 stars.
    One more thing, PG&E is changing the amount of money they will credit you for electricity.  Right now I'm getting as much as $0.52 for a kWhr.  Then later in the day when PG&E is charging just $0.12 kWhr PG&E will give me 4.3 back later in the day.

    Feel free to message me if  you would like more info.

    I used Silverline Solar twice! For the home we sold summer in 2018 we had both a roof and solar panels installed. Was very happy with price, quality of work and efficiency of having solar. When I moved I used solar brokers and spoke to various solar vendors--hated the sales tactics of most, finally received a decent bid from a small but decent family run company out of Petaluma, took that quote to Silverline Solar (they told me they'd beat any price and they did). There were some glitches with the City of Oakland Building Permits (hopefully you don't live in Oakland) but Steven Biden the owner of Silverline Solar is top notch and took care of everything, put us up at the Claremont because the Oakland Building Permit fiasco resulted in the power being cut to my home for a week! Silverline Solar's Bay Area rep used to work for Tesla and Shawn is very knowledgeable about all aspects of solar. They were offering to cover 12 months of payments for new referrals but I'm unsure if that's still available (tell them Ana B. relayed that information to you). If interested please email info [at]

    Good Luck!

  • We're ready to take the solar plunge, replacing the gas stove with something electric, and doing what we can reduce gas consumption for heating the house and water.

    There are so many solar installers to choose from. They all sound somewhat like used car salesmen - to put it bluntly.

    I have several questions like:

    How many kW should I plan for?

    What about a PowerWall or other forms of battery?

    Could I use an electric car as a battery?

    Are there any ways to aggregate in a localized community?

    Is solar water heating a good idea?

    What's suitable for my neighborhood?


    I'm sure there are more that will occur to me or my friends.

    So before deciding on someone to install (and maintain it?), I would like to find a consultant who can help me scope the work. Does anyone have a consultant who they can recommend?

    Thanks, Philip

    Good questions Philip.

    I ended up designing and purchasing my own system, handling all the permit work and inspections, and having a solar company do the physical installation. Worked great and saved some bucks, but the permit paperwork is not for the faint of heart. My general recommendation is to collect a bunch of quotes using something like

    1. How big? (kW) - really depends on your usage (or roof limits). Generally, you want to produce slightly less than you use. Most companies will ask for electric bills to perform this sizing calculation.

    2. PowerWall/Battery - can be great for backup, almost impossible to justify otherwise. Generally won't reduce your bill. We have net metering, so the grid is your battery already.

    3. Aggregation. Not exactly sure what you're asking, as there are different meanings to aggregation.

    4. Solar Water Heating. Almost never a good idea. Very expensive. If you want solar water, it's generally cheaper (initial and running costs) to add more solar power (kW) and buy a heat-pump water heater. Solar Water only makes sense when roof space is highly limited.

    5. Suitable for your neighborhood? I don't understand the question. Why would your neighborhood matter?

    Best of luck!

    We recently went with SunRun through Costco. I got 3 proposals and Sunrun was the best. An advisor will come to your house and teach you everything. They calculate how much energy your system will need to generate based on your utility bills over the last 6-12 months. Other places can create a system for you over the phone based on what you desire battery/no battery etc.

    good luck!

    Terrific, Philip! Going solar is definitely the way to go, IMHO. I had a grid-tied solar electric system installed on my home about 12 years ago, and added it to it with the addition of a plug-in electric vehicle 9 years ago. The industry is constantly evolving, particularly as local jurisdictions and utility providers adjust and shift priorities. When my system was originally installed, I was not allowed to install a system that provided more than 80% of my anticipated use. Now, PG&E will pay me for extra power generation.

    I am a (retired) architect, so I knew a reasonable amount going into my projects. That said, I would not recommend hiring a consultant. Do your research to find qualified installers that serve your area - ask your neighbors, friends, colleagues, ask at the local building department which installers pull a lot of permits and they may share with you their opinion of which are professional and easy to work with. Read what you can from reliable sources on the internet. Then, choose three installers from which to solicit proposals. Go to them with a written outline of your project goals and let them know you are soliciting three proposals. They will send someone out to meet with you, see your property and take various measurements. They will provide you with a design and cost proposal. Evaluate the three - pretty much guaranteed they will be quite different.  Ask clarifying questions and get an additional proposal if you think you need it. Make your decision and enjoy watching your electric meter run backward!

    Good luck with your project!

    A consultant is likely way overkill for a residential system. I recommend getting quotes from a handful of installers (maybe 5) and then comparing them. Just ignore the sales pitch and tell them you’re paying cash. You will find that most installers size the systems similarly in terms of kw because they’re using the same formulas so you’ll have an apples to apples comparison. There’s basically no maintenance and little quality difference, so those are not really issues. 

    If you’re looking to make the best financial choice, battery systems aren’t financially viable yet. You can do it, but you’ll never break even on the system. If it’s not about money, they’re worth considering for backups for short power outages for critical items in the house. To setup an “off grid” capable battery system for all power takes a lot of space and money and is really unlikely to make sense for most people.

    As a general rule, doing solar electric with a high efficiency electric hot water heater is less complicated than solar hot water. I’ve struggled to find good plumbers for solar hot water and the ones who can do it correctly are not cheap. Those systems require an expansion tank, tempering valves (the water often gets too hot) and back up water heating  for cloudy days. To me, it’s not worth the extra headache and space and money they require particularly given that you still need a “regular” water heater as backup anyway. They are neat though. And once they’re common enough that any old plumber is confident setting them up, I’ll consider making the switch.

    You've received a lot of good information, but some may NOT be relevant or correct for your situation--depends on where you live, size of your system, what rate schedules are open to you.

    Specifically, if you live in East Bay Clean Energy territory (Community Choice energy in many East Bay cities) and your system produces more energy than you use over a year, EBCE gives you retail rate for the excess  unlike PG&E which gives you wholesale rate--approx 3-4 cents per kwh.  And since you say you may want to add electric appliances, maybe an electric vehicle, "oversizing" your system can make sense.

    I agree with those who suggest you get multiple quotes.  If you are willing and able to look hard at the details, ask lots of questions, and push to talk to a knowledgable company representative, then I don't think you need a consultant...

  • Solar installation

    Oct 19, 2017

    Does anyone know of a good company that can install solar panels? We want to do a solar system on our home but I am befuddled as to which firms might be reputable.

    We used Sun First Solar of San Rafael both to install and to re-install after we re-did our roof. (Pro tip DEFINITELY replace your roof before you install panels. Our roof was only 10 years old when we had panels put up but it was too old already for the life of the panels - it's expensive but saves $$ in the long run). Anyway we worked with Marty and he was great. Also recommend getting a metal roof from Berkeley Roof Services. It's a bit more expensive up front but you get way more use out of it and it's much more environmentally friendly (and you can do rainwater catchment too!)

    We were very happy with A-1 Sun.

    Matter of fact, we were so happy that when we did an addition on our house we had them install another set of panels.  Very nice, honest people. 

    Bill Wong - Interstate Roofing and Solar

    (510) 639-0833

    I'm a Realtor, Bill Wong have been in the roofing business for a long time, he is well respected in the community

    I talk to at least 3 companies, prices were similar, but Bill Wong will stay in business for a long time and can be on top of any problem that could arise....

    We are very happy, and yes my electrical bill  went from like $400 to $40. I will pay off the loan I got in around7 years...I think it was worth it and we are helping the environment!!

    Good luck!

    We used SuperSolar in Oakland, which is owned by Szilard Szabo.  He was very knowledgeable, responded promptly to our inquiries, coordinated with the roofer, and finished all the work in two days, doing it himself.  Day 1 was after the old roof had been torn off; he installed the posts for the panels.  Day 2 was after the new roof was installed, he attached the panels to the posts and installed the inverter, did the testing, etc.  I second the recommendation to get a new roof even if you are not quite due for one; it's easier to install the panels in conjunction with roof replacement.  We were very happy with SuperSolar, we're very happy with our panels--they provide all the electricity we need, including charging my electric car, and we sell a small amount of electricity back to PG&E each year.  The installation will pay for itself in about 10 years in our case, because we did not use a huge amount of electricity to begin with.

  • We have been contacted by a energy efficiency remodeling company that is proposing to replace our roof and install solar panels under the PACE program.  We are aware that this program creates a lien on the property as we pay through our property tax installments.  We are not planning on going anywhere soon, so we don't necessarily see this as a problem.  But we are wondering about the overall charges of the program over its lifetime. We like the idea of bundling a number of projects, i.e. replace roof and install panels, with one company who handles permitting and contracting, but wonder if in the long run this is the way to go.  Does anyone have any experience with companies using this approach to finance solar or would have any other suggestions?  

    We just finish our Roof and solar installation!! 

    We are so happy. We use Interstate Roofing, I'm a Realtor in Montclair and everyone in the business knows this reliable company. We financed with California First (Is that different than Pace?) Yes, we chose to pay it in 7 years and it gets attached to our property taxes. We hope the monthly cost will be similar to our electrical bill ans we are helping the environment and maybe this project will add value to our home...

    We talk to different companies, but I was convinced that working with a local contractor that needs to protect his reputation ( and has been doing that for the last 20 years) was important. The prices were similar..

    Feel free to contact me and I will give you all the details

  • I'm wondering if any BPN subscribers have any recommendations for solar panel installers.  Someone who actually installs the solar panels, not for solar companies.

    I've been on the fence about installing solar.  I've received bids from the solar companies of between $30,000 -$45,000 to install a system on my roof.  Just doesn't make financial sense to me to spend $30,000 or to get locked into a 10-20 year power purchase agreement. Not what I'm looking for.

    After talking to several people in Berkeley and Oakland who installed solar on their own they've convinced me to install it on my own.  That $40,000 solar system the solar companies are selling me is really about $8,000 in material, $3,000 for labor and the building permit is just $271.  I think I would rather keep the $28,000 the solar company is making in profit and hire someone to do the work. So after the 30% tax rebate that $40,000 system will only cost me $8,000.  Now I'm interested.

    I visited the city planning office and contacted PG&E to make sure a homeowner could install their onw solar system and was told I could.  If anyone else is thinking of doing the same the city has an excellent check list of everything that needs to be done which makes it really easy. 

    ​I'm wondering if any BPN readers have installed their own PV solar system?
    ​Did you install the panels or have someone install them for you?
    If you hired someone to install the PV solar panels who did you use?  And were you satisfied?
    ​Who did you buy your solar panels from?  Solar Wholesale looks good.  In the news from CES the Chinese manufactured solar panels are just as good as the American made panels and the  cost is one-third to one half the price of the American panels.  I have a neighbor who purchased and installed Chinese panels and they've been working perfectly for him.  If you purchased Chinese panels do you have any brand recommendations or advices on where to buy them?

    Thanks - Looking to save $32,000 in going solar.

    Check out the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, CA (  They have been around for DECADES, are nonprofit and offer fabulous classes and resources for how to build, install, maintain solar.  A day trip to visit their site is a joy because you can tour many acres of permaculture, try out fun things like their bathrooms and bike to create electricity, browse the store, talk to EXPERTS and more.

  • I've been looking at solar for my home trying to decide if would make sense.  I just received quotes from solar company who would install solar on my home and I would pay $0.15-$0.22kWhr.  I've signed a tentative contract and but just received a notice city councils in many Bay Area cities have voted to have citizens buy renewable electric power for only $0.07 kWhr.  

    From what I've read once the city council votes everyone is AUTOMATICALLY switched from buying electricity from PG&E to an organization called MCE?  If you want PG&E you have to opt out of the program.  This has already happened in Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Benicia and many other cites in the East Bay,  (But not the city I am in.)

    There's a cryptic billboard on 680 in Walnut Creek about the program.

    If MCE sells renewable (solar, wind) electricity for $0.07 kWhr it seems like it would be silly to install solar on my roof and pay 3 times as much to the solar company for electricity.  

    Does anyone know about this program?  Am I right not to install solar now as our city council might be switching us in a few months?


    It is more efficient to get solar through the utilities- whether it's PG&E or a community choice aggregator like MCE. California requires that 50% of electricity sold will be from renewable sources, so all the utilities are purchasing more solar and the trend will only point being that if you live in California, you can do nothing (other than voting for and supporting candidates with strong values about addressing climate change) and still be pretty green. If you want to support solar development, invest in projects in other states without such strong environmental laws. That said, if you can lock into a $0.15 per kWh rate, with no upfront costs and no other hidden monthly charges, you'll probably save money over the long haul. Utility rates go up every year. Because of net metering, the more electricity you use, especially during peak times, the more putting solar on your roof will help you.

    While your community's proposed switch to Community Choice Aggregation such as MCE will increase the proportion of renewable energy your monthly bill pays for, you may still benefit from your  own rooftop solar installation as 100% of that energy will be renewable.  Whether or not you save money is complicated. As the initial response suggests, you will lock in a price and it is most likely that rates will go up over time.  However, PG&E will still be responsible for your grid infrastructure.  So there may be increased charges (Minimum bill or fixed charges) beyond the price per kilowatt hour consumed as the CPUC decides what PG&E can charge over the next several years.You should look at the contract you are signing to see how subsequent charges for grid infrastructure will affect the bill your solar installer will charge you.

    By the way, I suspect the quote of $ .07 per kilowatt hour relates to the wholesale purchase price for larger scale solar not what MCE will be charging you...

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Advice about Solar Systems Related Pages

2010 - 2013 Recommendations

Need a new roof. Should we also go solar?

May 2013

We definitely need a roof so I'd like recommendations but what about installing solar panels as well? I know nothing about either so I'd be interested in hearing from the BPN network to find out if going solar ended up being worthwhile. Is there there extra upkeep needed for solar panels? Do the roofers work with the solar panel installers? Are there any resources to see if going solar would be right for our house? What about special considerations for when we have the roof installed? Who would you recommend for doing the roofing and solar panel work? If we go solar, we really can't spend a lot of time doing special maintenance and I really don't want to end up with a leaky roof and the roofer and solar panel company installers blaming each other. Anonymous

After putting on a new roof is a good time to get solar. You definitely don't want to put on solar and then a few years later get a new roof.

If you do put on a new roof, I would recommend going with asphalt shingles. That is going to make installing a solar roof a lot easier with less chance of a leak.

We replaced our roof with lightweight concrete tiles (not spanish tiles, but flat tiles that look like shingles) a few years ago and then put on solar. The solar installers had lots of trouble working on the roof because when they stepped on the tiles wrong they broke. Eventually everything got installed properly and we are very happy with our solar roof.

There is no maintenance with a solar roof so don't worry about that. Eventually the inverter that converts the DC power to AC power will have to be replaced, but a contractor will do that.

We got our solar roof when there was still federal and state rebates so it made a lot of sense from an economic point of view. The rebates covered about 1/3 of the cost. We will pay off our solar roof in about 8 years. After that the money we save on electricity will be gravy. I'm not sure what rebates are available now.

We looked at leasing, but really you are just borrowing money from the solar company. If you can afford it, owning your roof has a better return on investment. Our roof is producing slightly more than kilowatt hours than they predicted and the value of that electricity (because of the way PG's time of use metering works) is more valuable than their simple calculation using the average cost of electricity.

Like any contracting project, get three bids. Even if you think one company is better before you start, you'll learn something.

Some roofing companies also do solar, but we didn't go that route. If you put on asphalt shingles, there is no problem putting on a solar roof unless your roof is very steep.

Solar companies will look at your roof on Google Earth and let you know for free if your roof is a good candidate for solar. That is where I'd start. Contact three solar companies and get a free evaluation. They'll also want to know how much electricity you are using. If you aren't using over a certain amount, it won't pay to get solar.

When you get bids for replacing your roof, I would let the roofing contractors know that you are going to put on solar.

We ended up going with Solar City. They did a good job even with all the trouble with our tile roof. -solar roof household

Full disclosure - I am an engineer for Sun Light & Power, a local solar company.

The best time to get solar for you roof is definitely when you are replacing it. The solar installers will work with in conjunction with the roofer and ensure that the roofer maintains the warranty for the roof. If there are leaks, the roofer is solely responsible. As for maintenance, there is basically none. The only thing to worry about is the panels getting dirty, but rain will wash them off just as well as you with a hose. Ideally, you'll want a large south-ish facing roof without any vents, without trees shading it. There are ways to work with non-ideal situations as well, so don't rule yourself out if there is a chimney in the way or something like that. Any solar installer worth their salt will give you a free estimate of both cost and power production, and check your electrical service and roof to make sure both are good as-is for adding solar or if an upgrade is likely. You'll also have to think about a lease vs. owning the system outright. In general, the benefit to a lease that it's cheap to free up front, but owning the system saves you significantly more over the life of the system. The installer should also take care of the permitting and any dealings with PG or the city, etc. And you should get a copy of anything they submit.

I would have at least a couple of installers give you a quote, and make sure you're comparing apples to apples in terms of power, cost, warranty, included services, short-term benefit and long-term benefit. Ben

We just went solar and I would recommend it.

We went through paramount roofing and solar the sales guy we dealt with was Garrett Johnson 916-740-4288. Petersen Dean is also one of the companies involved. they do all the research about how the sun hit your roof, slope of the roof, shadows etc.

Like you, we have no interest or time to maintain/trouble-shoot solar panels. So we leased them for 20 years. Do do have to agree to get up on the roof and clean the panels twice a year. when you lease, you do not get the tax rebates but, depending on the contract you sign with them, you get flat or reduced electric bills for that period of time. We paid the highest up front cost without buying them outright, but there are many different levels you can do including paying very little up front, all the contracts have advantages and disadvantages) right now our electric service is costing us nothing because we are producing more energy for the grid than we use. the hook up costs a couple dollars a month so we came out ahead over $30 last month. this will be applied to our winter bills when our production will be less and we expect we'll owe a couple months worth of old electric bills by the end of the year (april 2014 since we just went live a month ago). You should know that it is a long process. We started last October. there are many steps. the solar guys did almost all the work - permits, contracts, etc but there was a lot of waiting for us. The service is great, they are available any time for questions and I can log on to see how our production is doing any time. We did not get a new roof - didn't need one. but they do roofs as well. good luck gone solar

You are right that the time to add solar is when you re-roof. That is the best way to make sure there are no leaks. As a long time general contractor in the area, my favorite team is Chuck at Caldwell Roland Roofing and Larry at A-1 Solar. They have done a number of jobs for us, working together to make sure the roof is water-tight and the solar system works perfectly. Highly recommended. Michael McCutcheon

Our Alameda Green Certified solar company name was referred to as: A-1 Solar in the 5/23 recommendation. If you would like to contact us in Berkeley, you'll find us listed as: A1 Sun, Inc. Thank you. Larry Giustino info [at]

Solar hot water?

Oct 2012

we just bought a small house and since it needs a new hot water heater, we thought why not go solar for our hot water. It seems to be a daunting process to figure out and most places we've called have tried to interest us in solar heat (a much more expensive project than we're interested in) or have told us they only do big projects, not small single family homes. Does anyone have advice on who to call, someone who does good work and can also help us thru the rebate application process. anon

I don't know anyone doing solar hot water. There is a reason that it is difficult to find contractors to do this work. In the 1980s, solar hot water was all the rage. The problem with it is that if the collectors don't drain when the temperatures get down to freezing, they break and become useless. They are generally designed with an automatic backup system to drain on cold nights, but those systems fail with no warning after a few years. Then when an usually cold winter hits, and the whole system is destroyed. I suspect that most of the hot water solar systems put in during the 1980s where there were tax incentives are now broken and useless. They are low tech and very efficient, but need regular monitoring to make sure that they are working properly. Anon

Local Solar Company Who Will Work with Condos

Aug 2012

My husband and I live in a 75-unit condo complex; our building contains three flats. We're interested in solar energy, but the local Sungevity people said they only install systems in single-family buildings, and another outfit we consulted said our building was too small. Does anyone out there have experience with good local firms (including those who rent out the panels, etc., instead of selling them) who are willing to work with apartments and condominiums? Melanie

I highly recommend Kevin Good of Sunsfree Solar. I know he's done other condos working with the HOA president. You can reach him at kevin [at] He offers different payment options like a lot of the companies do now. Heather

Going solar - which company?

Jan 2011

I'm thinking about going solar, but there are a lot of solar companies out there. Can anyone recommend a reliable/affordable solar company. I live in Lafayette.

We went with SolarCity. They are big enough and have enough financial backing (Elon Musk who made his money starting eBay is a founder) to be in business for a while. The crew that worked on our house was very professional and they have first rate materials. After a year we had a problem with our inverter and they replaced it under warranty at no cost or hassle. Elon Musk also founded Tesla; so he believes in electric cars and generating your own electricity. We bought our system. It is generating about 10% annual return (tax free) which is much better than a bank CD. --Happy Solar Homeowners

Elon Musk may be wonderful but he did not start Tesla.. Marc Tarpenning and partner, Martin, did. Marc graduated with and EE/CS degree from CAL. This is not to take anything from Elon Musk but he was not the founder of Tesla. Nora

I recommend giving Clary Solar a call. They are local, have a lot of experience, and are really nice people. Their prices are fair and honest, you can own your system rather than leasing it, and when you meet with them, they will tell you everything you need to know about going solar. Their number is 510 962-6366. Joan

We used Super Solar and were very pleased. They also installed the solar for two other friends and gave us a bit of a discount because they bid on the three jobs at once. We are in Lafayette, so you would be welcome to come see our installation if you would like. I work for the EPA and got a bit obsessed with the details, and I liked Super Solar because the owners are NABCEP certified and do all the work themselves rather than subcontracting it out. I also was impressed with Sun Light and Power in Berkeley, so I would recommend checking out both of them. Vali

There are a myriad of solar installation companies out there, and more cropping up all the time. I went through this process a couple of years ago, and got estimates from several companies, from the venerable Sunlight and Power to the new-at-the-time Sungevity (as well as a few others). I ultimately opted for a company called Vista Solar at (408) 844-7149 or They are located in the South Bay but work throughout the Bay area. I did not investigate the companies that rent the panels.

Advice on comparing bids: As far as I could tell, there is no significant quality difference across the brands of panels used by reputable companies. But because different companies use panels with different ratings, it can be difficult to compare costs. The best way to do this is to compare the cost per watt. Set up a spreadsheet with each company\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2s bid for the total system capacity and the total cost. But be careful to compare bids using the same rating system, as there is more than one type of unit used to express capacity. I made sure all the bids were expressed in KW CEC - that is California Energy Commission kilowatt ratings. Divide the total cost by the total number of watts (the CEC rating times 1000). The differences then are readily apparent. For instance the full per watt cost of the systems I considered ranged from $7.83 to $10.75. After rebate and tax credit, the final cost per watt of the system I selected was $4.19.

Other factors: cash rebates from local jurisdictions and/or power companies vary, and are subject to change, but are significant. The companies you interview can advise you of the rate that would apply to you. As an added incentive some companies will file the paper work and get the reimbursement themselves, deducting the amount from your out-of-pocket costs. (Vista Solar and Sungevity both did this at the time I was looking.) Others simply supply you with the paperwork to file and get reimbursed yourself.

I went with Vista Solar because their bid was by far the most attractive. I was very happy with their work. They have a computer monitoring system that allows me to see how much energy my panels are generating, on an hourly, weekly, monthly etc basis. Their chief of installation, Joel Lusk, lives in the East Bay and has extensive local experience as well as positive BPN refs - which is how I found my way to the company. I hope this is helpful. optimoms

Installing solar and new roof at the same time

Jan 2011

We are interested in installing photovoltaic roof panels but also need to replace our roof. We'd appreciate any advice on whether this is a good time to install solar panels (rather than waiting for technological advances!) and also on consultants/contractors (should we do roof first, then panels, or can it be integrated into one job?) Berkeley resident

When to do solar - now or wait? Of course there is no absolute way of predicting the future, but from what I could tell there don't seem to be game-changing developments in solar technology on the horizon. Presumably with volume the costs of panels, inverters, and installation could change (in either direction) but on the other hand so could the various tax credits and rebates currently available. We installed our system about 2 years ago, right at the beginning of the tax credit change that is part of the TARP stimulus package, which made it much more affordable.

Doing along with a roof. The optimal installation is to coordinate the roofing job with the panel installation, so that the panel supports are integrated with the roof. First the roofers put down the sheathing, then the solar company installs the panel supports and flashing, and finally the roofers return to do the shingling. Thus the two companies need to coordinate their work schedules, which in my experience they are happy to do.

I got multiple bids for both parts of my project, and selected Nicholas Roofing and Vista Solar. I was very please with both companies. Contact me for further information or for advice on comparing solar bids. optimoms

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

City of Berkeley Solar Resource

May 2009


My name is Christina C. and I am with an environmental non-profit based in Berkeley, Rising Sun Energy Center . We run a summer program called California Youth Energy Services. It's a free service which provides homeowners and renters all around the bay area with a free energy efficiency audit and free energy saving equipments (such as CFLs, clotheslines, and efficient flow showerheads, etc.)

We can do all of this for free because we also hire and train local youth for the summer to become energy specialists and perform this audits. We are funded as a workforce development program for youth.

I am writing because we were hoping to get the support of the Berkeley Parents Network. Hopefully some of you have heard of us or have taken advantage of our services before. If not, we encourage you to come by our office on 2033 Center Street to check out our operation and sign up for a summer appointment!

We also have a new program that we are launching called Smart Solar, which is funded by the city of Berkeley to be an unbiased informational resource for residents who are interested in adopting solar for their homes. I could send you some information on this program as well if you think community members are interested.

Christina C.

Any regrets installing photovoltaic (solar) panels?

May 2008

Any regrets with installing photovoltaic (solar) panels? How expensive is the maintenance? trying to be green

I wan't sure from your question if you were looking for reasons NOT to put solar panels on... We are very happy with ours--they provide 95%+ of the electricity for our family of four. In obvious dollar terms, in 7-10 years, it'll pay for itself (depending on future power costs), and it's profit after that... In more intangible ways, I feel that we are FINALLY doing SOMETHING--and it feels great! What maintenance!? We just hose it down every month in the dry season (lots of firs with pollen in our area). Just make sure your installer carefully studies potential shading from trees. We trimmed a couple on our lot, and are living with some winter shading from our neighbor's trees (otherwise, we'd be getting more than we use). kr

Solar City put solar panels on our roof last May and I have no complaints or regrets. They monitor the system for us at no additional charge and were quick to respond with the one maintenance issue we've had. (The inverter died and they replaced it no charge.) Trying to do our part

We have NO regrets after installing solar panels. We scheduled the installation the same time we put on our new roof. We also picked a location where there are no tall trees above/near the panels. We are now paying $5 a month to PG for the use of their wires. No other cost for electricity. We worked with Sunlight and Power and they did a great job helping us with the cost/benefit analysis and guiding us through the whole process. We are very happy with our decision. Kay

Can you recommend a solar power installer?

March 2008

Hello, We'd like to install a solar electric system. Its really hard to distinguish one system from the next when doing an internet search, so I was wondering if anyone highly recommends the company they used? Thanks a bunch!! Elaine

I live in Berkeley and am interested in having solar power panels installed for my house and am looking for people who have already done this and had a good experience with the company they chose. I understand that Berkeley is in the process of approving a loan (lien on the house) to home owners who can repay over 20 years and might want to go that route. Any info is appreciated. Thank you! Heidi

I highly recommend Sesco Electric for Solar Installation. They are honest and reliable. They can be reached at 510-883-0988. Email: sesco1992 [at] web: Jen

Sungevity in Berkeley made the process of going solar incredibly easy. They are based in Berkeley and know a lot about the upcoming loan program. Their staff and crew are incredibly nice, knowledgeable and professional. They guide you through options, the financing process, pg issues, and rebates, and they have state of the art calculating equipment, and discussed many options with us. It is a total kick to see our meter running backwards now. The whole process took a very short time to get us going solar, too. info [at] or call +1 510 845 5660.Candace Neufeld is their main rep. to talk to first. happy with solar, Carol

We just had solar panels put on our house in December. They were installed in about 2-3 days and the people that installed them were great. The company is Sun Light and Power: . We live in El Cerrito, so I am not sure about the Berkeley loans. There are some rebates you can get from the state as well. We are very happy with our solar and are on track to zero out.

Solar panel installation

Feb 2008

We are determined to install solar panels on our El Cerrito house this year, and are looking for a company that can both design and install a system. Have you had any experience with this? Can you recommend (or recommend against) a particular company? Thanks for any input! Solar Happy

Regrid is a local solar panel company that does exceptional work at reasonable prices. I've worked with Peter Gregory who spent several years designing and installing and is now on the sales end. He can be reached at (510) 499-4688 or Paul

Hi there, We just had Borrego Solar design and install our solor system at home and we are so so happy with the result. Their customer service, attentiveness, the cleaniness of the job, etc... was great. I can't recommend them highly enough. We spoke to four firms and Borrego was the cheapest as well. If memory serves, I think they did the solor system at Head Royce. They are wonderful and their Bay Area Office is in Berkeley. Jason Venotoulas was the project manager on our job. Completely professional, low pressure crowd. Shelley

We had our system installed in October by REC Solar & are very pleased, both by the system & with our experience with REC. We had quotes from both REC & Borrego & were impressed by both of them, though in the end REC were able to give us a better deal & the panels were higher quality. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Good luck with your decision. Katherine

We just put a solar system on our roof in North Berkeley. We worked with Sungevity, a new company based in Berkeley. We were pretty energy efficient before we got the system, and Sungevity was one of the only companies willing to design a system small enough for our energy needs. They were eager, customer-oriented, cost competitive, and focused entirely on residential customers. Their sales and installation team was friendly and professional. We worked with Candace Neufeld (877-257-8648; cneufeld [at] Ask for a password to access their website (currently in Beta test mode) - it's a very cool resource for learning about solar. Martin

We just got our solar system from Sungevity. They are a new local solar sales and installation company that does all it's work through a cool online system that makes it really easy to choose a solar system and get it installed. They gave us a great price on a system that meets our needs and the installation was smooth and looks great. They took care of all the paperwork to get the state solar rebate, which made it really easy. Many of the people at the company are from non-profit advocacy groups and they are really committed to making solar accessible to everyone. We love our Sungevity solar system and would recommend them to anyone. Catharine S

Solar Lights Life Expectancy

Feb 2008

Solar Lights Maintenance: I have a motion-detector solar light on my house to light my driveway and several along my walkway which have ''burned out.'' I've searched the directions that come with them to see if there are bulbs or re-chargeable batteries that need periodic replacement but can't find any info. Anyone know if they just have to be tossed and replaced or is there something that can be done? Thanks. In The Dark in Berkeley

I am a handyman and have had mixed success with solar lighting. Often the batteries go bad within a year and the initial (first use) charging on certain batteries is crucial to their effectiveness (install new batteries on a sunny morning BEFORE your first cup of coffee). Since the technology is still in it's relative infancy (though i have some solar cells that are 40 years old)... the directions and maintenance instructions are often insufficient. I have replaced the batteries in the units with about an 80% success rate. Also, cleaning the solar collectors is a good idea but often the plastics are degraded by the elements. Use precaution with cleaning as windex/ammonia reduces the transparency of many plastic surfaces. Oren

Thinking of going solar (PV) any suggestions?

May 2007

We live in the Montclair hills and are thinking of having photovoltaic solar panels put on our roof (a large part faces south and it's unobstructed). We've done some web surfing, but haven't found a lot of information from local solar contractors. Does anyone have experience with this or recommendations or places to look on the web? Thanks. L

A friend of mine works for Build it Green - it's a non-profit in Berkeley which works with home-owners, builders, contractors, etc to promote and educate on green-building (and remodeling!). ''Ask an Expert'' is a huge component of it. You can talk to them in Person (they're on University Ave near Sacramento St.), on the phone, or on-line.
They will talk you through everything from what you need to who to talk to. Green Friend

We completed the solar electrical system for our house last November. The system was designed to completely replace any electricity we have been buying from the utility grid and generate ''green'' electricity.

The most remarkable part - our system reduces carbon dioxide emissions equal to permanently REMOVING 11.1 CARS from our congested highways. It would require 17.16 ACRES OF NEW TROPICAL RAINFOREST to reduce an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. This project, over its design life, will offset the emission of more than 63 TONS OF DANGEROUS POLLUTANTS, such as NOx, SO2, and CO2.

The cost of putting it together was $29k, of which $7k was reimbursed by the state of Cal directly to the solar company, so we only had to write a check for $22k. Those taxpayers NOT in alternative min tax (''AMT'') could also get a $2k federal tax credit if installed this or next year, others won't get it b/c the credit can only reduce regular tax and not the AMT.

We talked to 6 different companies, got quotes from 3 companies we liked to work with, chose the lower (by $3k) quote of the 3 given to us, and the other two companies were willing to match it, so this seems to be the price.

The quote is calculated based on the number and kind of panels & other equipment with labor cost as a % of materials. Neighborhood doesn't matter.

It took 3 days to install, about 45-60 days b/w signing contract and being completely done (permits etc - all taken care of by solar co.).

At the current electricity rates our payback is 10 years, for most people it is shorter than that (we are big energy savers), plus it will be shorter since electric rates keep going up every year.

Alameda county does not increase your tax base by the value of solar system, for real estate tax purposes.

We had a great experience with our provider - SPG Solar, a large company with lots of experience and great customer service. Our contact was Ted Walsh, ted.walsh [at]

Cheers, Maria

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Solar electricity system - is it worth it?

Sept 2006

We're considering installing a solar electricity system on our roof and are curious about others' experience and advice. The threshold question is, ''is it financially worth it?'' That is, does it have a reasonable rate of pay back. We'd like to do it for environmental reasons, but don't want to get taken to the cleaners in the process. For those who have installed systems, do you have any recommendations of the best companies to use? We've started inquiring with Real Goods and Berkeley Solar Electric Systems, but I'm sure there are others, and it's quite difficult to choose. While we're on the subject, we're not really thinking much about solar hot water heating, but if people have had really good experience (or bad) with that, we would be curious as well. Thanks! Jamie

I self-installed thirty solar panels on my Rockridge bungalow in 2001. Ideally, this should generate a peak of about 3000 watts. In practice, the maximum power output has been 1600 watts (Noon on June 21st).

Typically, my 30 panels generate about 11KW/day on clear summer days; 7KW/day on clear spring/fall days; 3KW/day on clear winter days. Divide these numbers by ten for cloudy days. If my house were better situated, these numbers might be 20 or 30 percent higher.

Our PG ''time-of-use'' meter runs backwards whenever the sun makes more power than we use. Last year, our total electric bill was $150, or about $12 per month. Quite a savings - we used to pay $35 to $75 per month. (some of this savings, however, is simple conservation - using compact florescent lamps, throwing away electric heaters, doing our wash in the evening, etc)

There are downsides of solar electric. First, solar panels are ugly. (One reason why my panels aren't efficient is that I didn't install them facing the street) Second, they require maintenance. (Every few months, you wash off the dust, leaves, and bird poop. This means a trip up the roof. And don't ask me about the raccoon nest under my solar panels!) Third - shadows from trees will drastically reduce solar output - even an overhead cable's shadow can have negative effects. A fourth problem is the roof itself - cutting holes through the shingles. If not done properly - and intellegently flashed - these will spring leaks in a year or two. And all the walking & work on your roof shortens the life of the shingles. Shingles aren't made for foot traffic, alas. Which is another problem: when you need to replace your shingles, those fragile solar panels make it a tougher job.

Summary - I've enjoyed installing & maintaining my solar rooftop panels. They will payback their cost in seven to twenty years. But it's a hobby, not a one-time investment. Cliff

August 2006

We had Joel Lusk (Lusk Construction) install pv solar panels on our new roof and are very happy with his workmanship. It didn't take long once the panels arrived and we're generating lots of electricity (which feeds back into the grid) on lovely sunny days like today! His number is 510 981 9721

Radiant system with solar panels?

June 2005

Hi, we're doing a major remodel and thinking about putting in hydronic radiant heat under our existing hardwood floors (there's a crawlspace under the house). In our dreams, this would be powered by solar panels on the roof (along with the rest of our hot water needs). There wasn't anything too recent in the archives, so just wondering if anybody has done hydronics and or solar panels lately and has suggestions/recommendations/advice. Thanks! Overwhelmed Mama

Overwhelmed Mama: Of course it is possible to completely have your radiant heat & domestic hot water needs met by a solar system. But a lot depends on your budget... Aside from the cost of the panels & controls It is possible your roof will need to be significantly reinforced to carry the load of the panels, which potentially adds a significant cost.

I do hear that going completely solar would be your dream setup; there are many possibilities to incorporate solar hot water at different budget levels. I am currently doing a major remodel at my inlaw's house and I will be installing a hydronic radiant system using a high (92%) efficiency boiler and passive solar strategies. The budget prevents us from incorporating solar panels into the radiant system but I will be installing solar panels for the domestic hot water needs, with a Takagi tankless water heater as a backup. Using solar panels for domestic hot water gives the most bang for the buck, and in all likelihood would not require modifications to the roof framing. Feel free to contact me if you wanted to get more info: 510-228-7410 Jeff ecobuilding AT

In response to the message by Overwhelmed Mama:

The common wisdom is that underfloor radiant heat is a pleasant and effective way of heating rooms. Since much of the heat transfer occurs by direct irradiation rather than through contact with warm air, it can keep people warm with a lower fuel consumption. The heating is less bursty than with forced air, it's quieter, and potentially more efficient since it uses water at low temperature and the boiler may take advantage of this.

It's highly doubtful that adding solar panels to such a system would be cost effective. To be useful the panels would need to collect heat at relatively low outside temperature, which makes them expensive (glazed metal). Also consider that placing the panels on the roof will make your roof maintenance more expensive. If anybody convinces you that a solar system will save you money, double check their figures and try not to delude yourself into it.

A solar system to help heat your domestic hot water may be a better bet since you would use it also in the warm seasons. But I don't think those are cost effective either. Anon.

2003 & Earlier

Rebates for installing solar panels?

Nov 2002

We just bought a fixer-upper in berkeley and when we replace the roof we are thinking about adding some type of solar panels, ( any advise on those is greatly appriciated too...) I have heard talk at different times about california and or Berkeley having some money set aside for residents to convert to some renewable energy sourse. Is this true? does anyone know anything about it PG? Any leads are great! - crisbiss

We have both solar electric and solar hot water heaters on our roof. The state gives a $750 subsidy for solar hot water heaters, and about a 50% subsidy for solar electric systems. The cost of completed systems is ~$3,000 dollars for hot water systems, and ~$15,000 dollars for solar electric systems. See

Berkeley considered low cost loans, but I don't know if the program was finalized.

It is much easier and cheaper to put in these systems while doing a major refurbishing of your house. You must have an unblocked South facing roof.

Solar hot water heaters are cost-effective. However, solar electric systems are dubious economic propositions. You can put one in for feel-good reasons, but don't expect to get your money back anytime soon. There are other ways to spend your money first, like an ultra-efficient furnace, which are far more cost effective and environmentally sound before putting in a solar electric system.

- Karen and Joel

For information on solar incentive (rebate) programs, see the City of Berkeley's online information at:

The link to Residential ''Renewable Energy Buydown Program'' (a statewide incentive) will probably be the most useful.

- renewable energy fan

Considering solar panels for energy production

July 2002

Hi, We are considering getting solar (photovoltaic) panels put in on our roof for home energy production. We have an estimate from Solar Depot in San Rafael who provide the equipment and Sun First in Muir Beach who install the equipment. Has anyone had these panels installed? Any experience with Solar Depot or Sun First? Any problems with solar (not thermal) panels? Any positive comments? If we do have solar panels put in, it will be a large expense and we would like to be pretty sure we want them before we make a decision, so any input would be helpful. Thank you, Richa

We installed a photoelectric system on our home a year ago. My husband did extensive research on the available systems, and designed our mounting system himself. The panels were installed by a combination of our regular contractor, our roofer and my husband. (The contractor was enthusiastic about the project, but had never done one before. The roofer rejected the standard mounting system, which is why my husband designed one he would accept, i.e. would still guarantee our year-old roof.) We have had no problems with our panels.

This is a big, expensive project. You have to file a long report to get a permit from the City of Berkeley. You have to file another load of paperwork to get the rebate from the state. There are only about 10 solar powered homes in Berkeley.

April 2002

We are thinking of putting solar power for electricity (photovoltaic) in our house. I'd like to hear from others their experience installing/using solar power, especially with the companies that install the systems, getting the State rebates and working with PG

We have photovoltaic cells that generate power for our house. We installed them last year. It was an extremely time consuming and somewhat expensive process. My husband and our contractor installed the system, we got the state rebate (at least 100 pages of paper work), have a permit from the city of Berkeley, and are working with PG Karen