In Santa Barbara County, businesses and homeowners are installing solar arrays to reduce energy costs and benefit the environment. Some of these systems, called “intertie systems,” collect solar energy and feed it into the electrical circuit breaker panel. When the solar power is not needed, excess power flows out to the grid, and the meter runs backwards, reducing the energy bill. When there is not enough solar power to meet the house or business’ needs, electrical power is pulled from the grid. Wind power systems can be set up in this way too.

At Great White Dental Lab, a Santa Maria dental laboratory using porcelain kilns, a 100kW solar array (pictured on left) has been supplying more than enough power to meet the facility’s energy needs since April of 2004. The array also shades cars in the business’ parking lot.

The net cost of the system was approximately $400,000, after accounting for state and federal incentives and credits, and a depreciation schedule. The owner estimated the payback period as under six years.

On weekends, when the facility is closed, the array provides power for an estimated 264 homes. For more information on this installation, see APCD’s Spring 2004 newsletter (PDF file) here.

A Million Solar Roofs Initiative, led by the Community Environmental Council, is looking at ways to remove barriers to solar installations in the county. One of the project partners, the Santa Barbara County Employees Federal Credit Union, has established a special solar loan program for credit union members.

For more information on solar systems, check out these links:

Practical information on solar systems from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network at the U.S. Department of Energy: www.eere.energy.gov/topics/solar.html.

Information on state programs and incentives for consumers: www.consumerenergycenter.org/index.html, and information for businesses: www.energy.ca.gov.