A couple months ago, I received a postcard in the mail advertising a new solar company based here in California called Sungevity. I usually toss such things straight into the trash bin, but I really liked the branding and design on the postcard so I sat down and read the offer. They lease you the panels at no money down and within a few years, you're saving money on your electric bill. Though you're never off the grid, the solar energy supplements the power you get from your local provider and, in some cases, depending on how much sun you're capturing, you can even get credit from your local energy supplier if you're giving back more AC to the grid than you're taking.
I was pretty certain at that point that it was time to give it a whirl. When I saw that they were offering a free iPad as incentive to the first 100 people who signed up, it became a no brainer because I was about to buy one anyway. Now, before everyone starts screaming "Shill, shill!" let me say that I don't care if you want to use Sungevity to power your home or not. I don't care if you take advantage of the $500 cash in your pocket I can get them to give you through our "Friends of the _floss" code or not. (Wait for it...) I'm really just writing this post because working with these guys has been one of the most pleasurable experiences I've ever had dealing with a power company, contracting company, building contractor, etc. In fact, they're right up there with the Apple care team in terms of friendliness, politeness and efficacy. I guess what I'm saying is, if Sungevity sold refrigerators, I'd buy them. Cars, I'd buy them... heck, if they sold and serviced nuclear energy solutions, I'd probably buy it! (Well, maybe not... but you get my drift.)
What follows is a photo essay of the installation process for those who are curious as to how this works and what's involved. From start to finish, the process takes about 3 months. First you have to go to their Web site and see if they service your area. Then you see if your house is solar-able (if your southern exposure is blocked by trees or a taller structure, you can't do it). After that, they send someone out to the house to check the structure from an engineering point of view. If that goes smoothly, they pull permits from the city and contact your local power company to get approval. Soon, they are pulling up to your house with the gear!
The next thing they do is unpack everything and install casings on the roof where the panel tracks will attach.
Meantime, the electrician arrives and is busy installing the converter that takes the DC and turns it into AC.
By now, the panel tracks are being installed on the roof. These will hold the panels steady and are suspended about 6" off the roof.
Again, it's worth repeating: Through the whole process, these guys really, er, shone brightly. So if you're interested, don't hesitate to get in touch with me at david 'at' mentalfloss.com and I'll forward you my special "Friends of the _floss" $500 cash in your pocket code. Shine on!