Smith Street solar panels (via Doug Gribbel)
Wellesley has been aggressive over the past year in promoting solar energy for residents and businesses, offering some great deals based on group buying across town.
Among those who took advantage of the incentives was Doug Gribbel, whose family’s Smith Street home near the Wellesley High football field and track has been solarized. He’s now sharing his story via a new Facebook page called Wellesley Solar Geek. I caught up with Doug to get more details on why he’s sold on solar energy.
What first sparked your interest in going solar, and how long did it take you pull the trigger from that point?
We used to live in California, another solar-friendly state, but our house had a Spanish tile roof and was not a good candidate to go solar. When we bought our house in Wellesley last year, I knew it was a good solar candidate. As soon as we finished renovating the inside, I started shopping for solar options for the outside.
Were you the driving force in your household on this?
I was the driving force to go solar, but we all liked the idea of generating our own clean energy. I think my 16-year-old son was secretly hoping that it might encourage me to buy a Tesla electric car.
Have you ever worked in solar… or not to be indelicate, but do you have anything to gain by promoting this other than to spread the word? (What do you do for work?)
In CA, I used to work for SmartZip, a company that, among other things, analyzed the solar potential of homes. I know how valuable it is for solar companies to generate qualified leads because it’s a long sales process. I now work as an eCommerce Product Manager for Staples and have the technical understanding of how to advertise on Facebook and leverage social media. When I had a positive experience going solar, I wanted to spread the word to encourage others. For those whom I refer to the solar company that I used, they will save $500 and I will make a referral fee once they go solar. I plan to use part of these fees to continue to advertise the Wellesley Solar Geek page on Facebook to get the word out to other MA residents.
How good was your house rated as a solar candidate?
In order to be a good solar candidate, your house should have a large area of the roof that has a clear view of the southern sky. You can check this quickly by looking at an aerial view in Google maps. The panels are slightly larger than 3 x 5 feet and they don’t have to be all adjacent, as is the case on my house. I have panels on three different areas.
Despite the quick payback, pulling together $15K to invest in this sort of thing isn’t for everyone. Is it an all or nothing sort of proposition: Could you have gone into it at a lower starting price, or was $15K pretty much the standard starting price for your house?
I wanted to maximize my solar energy production (and thus savings) and my 4 kW system with 15 panels cost $14,895, before incentives, or about $1,000 per panel. Some solar companies offer low-cost lease programs, but they are not as attractive from a financial standpoint. From my perspective, I invested less than I would have paid to remodel another bathroom and instantly increased the market value of my home by much more than my initial net cash outlay. With incentives, I recovered over $6,500 within a month of my install. With a 25-year warranty on the panels, the solar benefits are completely transferable to the next home owner.
No sign of solar panels from the front at Smith Street (via Doug Gribbel)
What were your major concerns about going solar?
I probably wouldn’t have gone solar if it meant covering the front roof with panels. If you walk by my house on the Brook path or Read More