Condoizing solar, part 2: off the grid

Last week I attended a “solar mixer” hosted by 1 Block Off the Grid (1BOG), a community-based program that helps people buy solar panels. By negotiating group discounts, they lower costs—and perhaps even more valuable is their help in sorting out all the confusing details that homeowners face when they attempt to go solar. They even help people deal with net metering, which allows you to feed power you generate back to PG&E when you’re not using it and then get it back at no charge when you need it. (That’s right, 1BOG is not technically about being off the grid, since that would require batteries—but you get the idea.)

The mixer was intended to share information with people interested in going solar. In addition to representatives from 1BOG and the local solar installer they work with, there were local residents who had already installed solar panels in their San Francisco homes. One had even installed a system for a preschool he owns; this was a project similar in scale to what I’m looking at for our condo complex, with the difference that he’s the sole owner.

I was grateful for the opportunity to talk to people with experience installing solar systems, and it’s inspiring to see this kind of work being done. 1BOG is a small local company, but they’ve facilitated installations all over the country. And the 1BOG website contains all kinds of useful information—from an interactive tool that lets you check if solar would work on your house to general information on how solar works to a video showing how solar panels add value to your property.

In spite of all this information, I still have a fair amount of research ahead of me. It seems that most installations are being done on buildings with a single owner, and that’s what the 1BOG website focuses on. Information on installing systems for condo complexes is sparse. Our challenge is determining both how to pay for the system and what incentives we’re eligible to receive; the various options available are great, and they also make this a complex project (no pun intended). I’ll probably be talking more with 1BOG to get further information and determine how to proceed.

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