Chris Phipps presented a program on Solar Power in Sonoma County
Speaker:            Chris Phipps, independent solar consultant
                        Practical Considerations for Solar Power
Mr. Phipps gave an illuminating presentation on the current state of solar power. He is an independent contractor who facilitates solar installations with referral to local contractors for installation.
Mr. Phipps is lived in Healdsburg for several years, and has lived “entirely off the grid” for the last 5 or 6 years. When faced with a cost of roughly $250,000 to install power lines to his rural home, he chose an alternative investment of roughly $15,000 for a solar system with battery backup that he has used continuously for the past 4 years. He feels that this has been a good investment.
A brief description of solar power generation was presented. Basically, energy is collected by panels on the roof, is passed through an inverter to convert it to alternating current and is then fed into an intelligent electrical panel that will selectively utilize on-site solar generated power when it is adequate, sending any extra energy to the electrical grid, and will utilize energy from the electrical grid when solar is inadequate to meet momentary energy requirements. If the user is situated in a region where there is the ability to get power from the grid, there is no need for a battery storage capacity, rather the grid serves as the “battery” to supply backup power when needed. Any power sent back to the supplier is credited towards future energy use, which can create a situation of no actual charges for electrical use if your solar installation is adequate to generate in excess of what your daily needs might be.
He spoke about the costs of installation, both with and without rebates. Healdsburg currently offers rebates which, coupled with Federal rebates, makes the cost per watt relatively inexpensive for installation, approximately $2 per watt, compared with non-rebated costs of approximately $4. Homeowners utilizing little or no energy will not benefit from the costs of installing solar. Those people who are experiencing electrical bills in excess of 125-$130 per month will probably see a reasonable return on the investment. Those spending over $300 a month, will definitely see a significant improvement in their electrical bills.
Although he had intended to speak about the Sonoma Clean Power Alliance he did not have time to do that.
This presentation was well received. I am sure that he opened many eyes to the possibility of solar power as a means of saving money, as well as a means of becoming more “green”.