Fresno neighborhood goes green with solar power

Friday, April 23, 2010

On this Earth Day: being green can also mean saving green when it comes to solar power.

There aren't many neighborhoods quite like Sierra Sky Park in Northwest Fresno. There's a plane in nearly every driveway, a hangar built onto each house, and neighbors here are a tight-knit bunch.

"You say something to one person, and before you get back to your house the whole neighborhood knows about it. So that's how close we are," said Sierra Sky Park resident Bill Darnell.

So close in fact, that a secret to saving money doesn't stay secret for long.

Switching to solar started with one home and quickly caught on. So far, at least 12 out of the 60 homes have it. That one-in-five ratio is much higher than the statewide average of one in 200 homes.

"Walking my dog, we got into a conversation about it, from there, two other guys happened to be walking their dogs," said Steve Laferrera.

Word of mouth referrals are the best advertising says Tom Cotter of Real Goods Solar. The company did many of the Sierra Sky Park's installations. "You can go solar for as little as no cost, and you can be immediately cash flow positive. So it used to be that people needed significant capital to invest in a solar system. And so we're helping to change the way in the industry in the way people go solar."

Real Goods has partnered with a company called "Sun Run" to eliminate the large upfront costs of solar. Customers essentially "lease" the equipment and pay sun run a fixed monthly rate for the solar electricity produced by the panels as part of a power purchase agreement. Sun run owns the equipment and maintains it.

"If one of those panels goes bad in the middle of the roof, it's not my problem. The inverters are over $3,000. If my inverter goes out, it's not my problem," said Steve Laferrera.

Laferrera has had his solar system for five months now. He said he never gets tired of seeing his meter run backwards. He says the proof is in the PG&E bills -- like this one for $5.91 -- which used to be as high as $500.

"It made it a no brainer, you're gonna save money, you're gonna be green."

And that's giving the neighbors something to talk about.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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fresno, fresno northwest, energy, consumer, christine park
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