Did you know that Ben Franklin stood in the protection of his barn and collected the static electricity in a bottle? We’ve come a long way and it is mind boggling where science has taken us. I am grateful and embrace all that I have gained from science, including solar power and storage that lets us power our lives. Solar batteries work a bit better than the jug Ben used, but he was on the right track! Now is the time for you to experiment with getting solar. Here’s why:

The truth is that our electric utility has raised rates over 50% between 2021 and 2024 and has no intention of stopping. We know it’s not going to stop because of the proposals PG&E has submitted and are waiting for the CA Public Utilities Commission to review. We have very little control of our for-profit utility company, but investing in solar and storage does help protect you from these rising, no-end-in-sight rates that we are subject to. Here’s how it works…

The Reality

I’ve heard a lot of frustrated folks suggest they want to go completely off grid and disconnect from PG&E. This tends to be, unfortunately, very impractical. What you can do is install solar and a battery system which allows you to store your excess solar instead of exporting it to the grid for mere pennies. You use that power past sunset, delaying and reducing the power you import from the utility and bringing your utility bill down, down, down.

This is an investment. We get that. For many, including myself, it may mean taking out a loan to finance the solar. (Ask us about resources.) By investing in a solar & battery system now, you are reducing your reliance on the utility for electricity, reducing the load on the grid making it more resilient, reducing the moving target of PG&E rate hikes and instead, if you are like me, pay a fixed fee on the loan. Many of the systems we install today will pay for themselves in 5-7 years. Going solar puts you in control of costs and protects you from the unpredictability of rising utility rates.

Also, in case you hadn’t heard, you can get a federal tax credit of 30% of your solar and storage contract. Now of course we recommend you check with your tax preparer, but it seems you can even spread this credit out over multiple years. Another reason that it’s a great time to install solar and get a great return on your investment and increase your property value.

The Numbers

Here’s what it boils down to.

In February of 2024 the average amount spent on a kWh of power in Sonoma County is 45 cents. Over the last four years the average rate increase has been about 12%. If we are conservative and say the utility will increase rates about 4% a year then in ten years, that same kWh is going to cost you .67 cents.

Not much in itself, but keep in mind that the average homeowner in Sonoma County uses about 9,720 kWh a year, that adds up to an increase of more than $2000 a year.

At Synergy, we aim for a system design that will greatly reduce your bill over the course of the year. Even if you are like me and need to take out a loan to pay for the system, it can be an excellent financial investment. Every household scenario is different and we would want to review the details with you to make sure it is a sound investment for YOU, but the graph below shows how much you would pay per kWh if you do nothing and continue to pay the utility’s increasing rates versus if you take out a loan or go with SCEIP.  It’s a picture of what it might look like based on a solar and a savings battery system with SCEIP financing at the current rate of 7.49% and assumes you take the federal tax credit. By dividing the cost of an average solar & savings battery system by the average kWh of solar produced, the graph indicates that you will very quickly be paying less per kilowatt than if you don’t invest in solar.

This chart is very generalized and each homeowner’s situation is unique (which is why you need an experienced, committed installer to show you the numbers). However, generally speaking, even with a loan, you’re going to be paying less per kWh because the loan amount is set and there’s nothing set about PG&E rates.

Graph showing PG&E cost per kWh constantly increasing from 2024 to 2034 versus a solar & savings battery system with a loan costing 48 cents per kWh. This is based on averages. By 2026 the cost per kWh with solar is less than PG&E.

More Info

If you are able to participate in what we call “fuel switching” all the better. Fuel switching is about changing your gas appliances (typically heater, water heater, dryer and range) for electric ones. Synergy can design a system for you taking these future changes into consideration, then you can reduce your gas bill, which also has been going up, up, up like a kite. Evidence has begun to show that gas appliances in the home is not so good for you. (There goes science again.) If you haven’t heard of it, Sonoma Clean Power’s Advanced Energy Center in downtown Santa Rosa can show you about fuel switching options.

Along those same lines of fuel switching, if you are expecting to get an electric vehicle (more science happening) in the next five years, this too can run on the sunshine you collect, further reducing your costs. Check with Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) about the low cost Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers they have. Here at Synergy, we are particularly interested in the new EV charger coming out from Enphase Energy which we anticipate to be part of SCP’s program soon. We like this product because of its ability to integrate with your Enphase system and charge directly from your excess solar. Synergy holds an Electrical Contractor License and can install your charger and install electric panel upgrades.

Oh, and let’s not forget the convenience and safety factor that comes with having a back-up battery system in a time of unpredictable weather patterns. Not long after my family installed a solar and storage system, there was a rainstorm while I was out and my husband was home. This is an actual text exchange that happened:

     ME: I just got an alert from PG&E that the power is out.

     HUSBAND: Yeah, just for a second there was a blip.

     ME: (Checks solar app) Looks like we’re running off battery. The grid is out!

     Five minutes later….

     HUSBAND: Ok Gramma is all set under her electric blanket and the slow cooker is still humming along. Dinner will be ready when you get home.

 

Image of various nuts and a nutcracker In a nutshell: Solar is still a great investment.

Before I could even finish this article and get it published, PG&E raised their rates two more times. There is much to know about solar and we at Synergy are committed to answering your questions. Even if you’re not a math-head, we can help you learn about the return on your investment in solar and storage. PG&E has made it more complicated recently to calculate the numbers which will drive a lot of solar installers out of California, but we have been doing this a long time and are willing to figure it out. Solar IS still a great investment and we have the expertise to help you with that investment. Be like Ben; capture the power. Image of Ben Franklin wire rim glasses.