We Have Answers.
Q: Is this Program Available in All of Santa Barbara County?
A: Yes, all residents of Santa Barbara County are eligible for this program.
Q: Can I Participate in the Program If I Already Have Solar in My Home?
A: Unfortunately, no. This program supplies a complete Solar Power and Battery Storage System to homeowners that do not currently have a solar system. However, we do have options for purchasing an entire system or smart home battery if you prefer.
Q: Is this Program Endorsed by the City of Santa Barbara?
A. Yes. The Santa Barbara Home Power Program is supported both by the City of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Clean Energy. This partnership will deliver affordable, sustainable, and resilient energy to Santa Barbara County residents through fully-financed residential solar microgrids. All partners share the belief that a home with a microgrid is a resilient home and a community with a network of microgrids is a resilient community. It’s also a great benefit that the Program’s power is less expensive than the utility power.
Q: How Is this Program Different from Other Solar Energy Companies?
A: A key differentiator over other solar energy companies is that the Santa Barbara Home Power Program covers the costs of a complete and customized solar power and battery storage system. There is no FICO score required, no financing, and no lien on your property. The Santa Barbara Home Power Program conducts a title search on the property to make sure the titled owner is aware of the upcoming solar and battery installation on their property. All residents of our partner communities are eligible to apply regardless of income or credit score.
Q: Why Is the City of Santa Barbara Partnering with the Santa Barbara Home Power Program?
A: The City of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Clean Energy are invested in improving local equitable access to energy resilience and sustainability, as laid out in the city’s Strategic Energy Plan. The Santa Barbara Home Power Program aligns with this vision, enabling residents to access solar energy generation and a state-of-the-art battery storage system at their home – regardless of socio-economic status. The ability to offer the Program to the entire County, regardless of income, is enabled by the City’s vetting and support for the program, both of which are detailed in publicly available documents, should anyone wish to view them.
The Santa Barbara Home Power Program is also featured in the Santa Barbara Clean Energy website, under Programs.
You may also confirm the partnership by contacting the City’s Sustainability & Resilience Office, (805) 564-5631, sustainability@santabarbara.
Q: Is There a Cost for the Home Solar & Smart Battery System?
A: There is no cost for the system – including the solar panels and battery, the inverter, installation, and maintenance. Customers only pay for the power produced by the system over the term of the agreement.
Q: How Can the Santa Barbara Home Power Program Provide a Complete Solar and Battery System at No Cost?
A: The Program finances the project in the same way that utility companies pay for their power plants. It’s called Third Party Financing and it’s been used for over 100 years. The Program pays for the system to be installed upfront and recovers that cost by selling the energy the system generates over time.
Q: How Much Will I Pay for the Electricity the System Generates and Stores?
A: The kWh cost a customer would pay to the program (instead of to your electricity company) is 24 cents per kWh for the first year of the agreement. This is considerably lower than a consumer’s average kWh price they pay to the utility.
Q: Will My Electricity Rate Change?
A: The Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is for 25 years and the price of the energy the system generates is guaranteed, so there are no unexpected rate increases. The rate increases at 2.9% per year. For comparison, it is conservatively estimated (based on historical data) that consumers in the SCE and PG&E markets will experience a rate increase of 5-6% or more annually.
Q: What is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)?
A: PPA is an agreement between the customer and the Santa Barbara Home Power Program that outlines how much annual usage a system will produce and the kWh rate that the customer will pay for energy usage. Based on discussions with the homeowner, this usage is modeled very closely to the energy used by the home, although it could be modeled at a higher usage threshold if the homeowner plans on buying an EV or upgrading the HVAC system. This agreement also outlines the number of panels that will be installed.
Q: Will My Local Utility Company Send Me an Electricity Bill or Will this Program Send Me a Bill?
A: The Santa Barbara Home Power Program will bill you monthly for the electric power generated by the solar power system. While you will continue to receive a utility bill from your local utility, it will likely be lower than before you had a solar and storage system, because the system will offset much of the electricity that you previously purchased from the utility. Your utility company will also bill you for your solar power system interconnection fee and for participating in the net metering program; these charges will total approximately $10-$15 per month. Typically, solar panels will generate energy during the day and recharge the battery, and the battery will power your home at night. The only electricity you’ll purchase from your utility will be during instances your home doesn’t produce enough electricity for your needs, based on size of the system and your power consumption. You will also be connected to the grid to send any excess solar energy back to your utility and you may receive bill credits based on the utility’s policies.
Q: Will I Receive a Credit for Not Using All the Electricity My System Generates?
A: If your system generates more power than your home needs, depending on the setting on your battery, it will export back the excess energy to the grid. Your local utility company may provide you with a credit for the kWhs you export.
Q: What Is a Microgrid?
A. A solar system generating clean power, and storing it in a smart energy storage system at your home to consume when the sun isn’t shining, or during a blackout is a microgrid. Microgrids are also known as “Distributed” Energy Resources (DER’s). This is in comparison to the current “Centralized” utility grid power system. The centralized grid was constructed almost 100 years ago, faces catastrophic failure during periods of “peak demand” such as during heat-waves, and is in need of constant repairs and upgrades, especially to mitigate and harden it against climate change related risk. These never-ending costs are passed on to you, the rate payers. DER’s such as microgrids return agency to you over your energy use and access, allowing you to control where your electricity comes from, its price, and your ability to have power when the grid is not functional. And, as an added benefit, your microgrid becomes a part of an emerging ability for local communities to establish and enhance resiliency by de-stressing the grid when demand surpasses supply, and ensuring your neighborhood has at least “one light on ” when the grid does eventually go down. In simple terms, a microgrid is a key component of the Renewable Energy Transition.
Q: My Energy Usage Varies by Season, How Do You Account for That When Designing the System?
A: The Program will perform a 12-month historical review of your power consumption and build a system measured in annual production; the System production matches your usage. All of the seasonal peaks and valleys of your consumption and the solar power System production balance out over the annual period.
Q: How Long Does It Take to Install the System? What Can I Expect During This Process?
A: The total time it takes to reach system activation is 3-6 months. During this time, the Program manages all elements of the project through the following stages: 1) Agreement Signed, 2) Home Survey, 3) Permitting, 4) Installation, 5) Final Inspections and Permission to Operate (PTO), and 6) System Activation. Your presence will only be necessary to allow us access to your property for the site survey, the 1-2 days of installation, and the final inspection by the city. Additional steps for potential roof or service panel upgrades may occur in parallel to this timeline and will be outlined after the site survey. Once your electric utility company authorizes your hookup (PTO), your system will be turned on and start powering your home.
Q: How Do I Manage My Solar Power and Battery Storage System? Is There an App?
A: Yes. Once the Solar Power and Battery Storage System is installed, you’ll be able to download our app to help manage your system.
Q: How Does the Program Protect Me from Rolling Blackouts and Power Outages?
A: A solar+storage System will protect you from these grid conditions. If you only have a solar system (no battery) you will not be able to have power during an outage. That’s something many people don’t realize and why it’s critical to include a smart home battery with any solar installation. Grid weakness due to long-term deterioration and sudden bursts of demand, are conditions that have led to more frequent power outages in recent years and these are anticipated to continue and intensify due to climate change impacts.
Q: Are the Solar Panels and Batteries Owned by the Homeowner?
A: The Santa Barbara Home Power Program owns the solar panels and the battery system.
Q: What Happens If I Sell My Home? Will the New Owners Continue to Receive the Benefits of the Program?
A: Yes. You are locking-in protection from both rising utility rates and more frequent grid outages. A new home buyer will be excited to have a fixed cost for power based on a past, lower rate and also be excited about generating and storing their own power. There won’t be any issues with a new owner qualifying either, because the Program doesn’t require a credit check. The Program doesn’t put a lien on your property, another barrier removed that will allow your System to transfer free and clear to a new owner. And if you are selling in year 6 or later, you can buy the System based on the depreciation scale in the PPA agreement. You will know exactly what that price is and ask that much more for your home when you sell it so you can recoup the cost.
Q: How Long Does the Battery Last? What Happens When There Is an Extended Power Outage?
A: The battery will back up your essential loads for 5-6 hours, more than sufficient for most outages lasting a few hours. Essential loads refers to your refrigerator, router, key lights and plugs, allowing you to have fresh food, maintain internet connection, charge devices, stream, and email. For extended outages, the battery will recharge by solar generation during daylight hours and you can use the battery while it is recharging. You will be able to enter nighttime with a full charge and begin recharging again the next day. As long as you modify your consumption behavior, you can cycle through recharging and discharging for days and days.
Q: How Can I Use My Battery Storage to Save on Electricity Costs During Peak Electricity Rate Periods? Is There Anything I Need to Do on My End?
A: Time of Use (TOU) power rates are based on the time of day. The highest demand for power is during the evening time of 4-9 p.m., this is when the utility provider charges the highest rates, these are called peak rates. The power storage System is smart and allows your battery to recharge during the day with free solar power and then discharge power and sell power back to the utility at the peak rates, offsetting all or a portion of the power you would otherwise be buying at peak rates from your utility during that period.
Q: Will I Still Use Electricity from My Local Utility?
A: If you use more power than the System provides, you’ll buy it from your electric utility company. You are not penalized for buying any additional power from your utility. There will be a true-up at the end of each year for any extra power you purchased at market rates from your local utility company.