|Solar Sonoma County right at home in RP
Healy, Lipitz make formidable team in solar energy business located at Sonoma Mountain Village
Solar panels on rooftops in Sonoma County are as ubiquitous as street signs. So much so, the U.S. Dept. of Energy gave its “Steel on the Roof” award in 2011 to Solar Sonoma County, the City of Santa Rosa and the county itself for leading the entire nation in countywide solar panel installations.
Nobody but statisticians know how many counties this means, but they include Florida, Arizona and Hawaii, where sunshine is abundant.
Awards are nice, but actual applications of solar panels provide more appreciation from businesses and homeowners.
Solor Sonoma’s origins
Solar Sonoma County’s now based in Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park.
It started out as Solar Sebastopol in 2005, moved to Santa Rosa as Solar Sonoma County and eight months ago to Codding Enterprises’ business cluster.
Alison Healy is executive director, and one of the early moves was to hire Sandy Lipitz as controller for the growing company.
Lipitz was former finance chief and director of administrative services for the City of Rohnert Park, a job she held for 21 years before retiring. Healy pulled Sandy out of her short-lived retirement to handle the financial end of the burgeoning industry.
“For me, it’s also an educational process,” said Lipitz. “I’m learning a lot of the technical aspects at the same time. It’s not only finance but getting acquainted with the business and filling in as office manager when needed.”
The basic function of Solar Sonoma County is hiring contractors to install solar panels. “We have a list of about 33 accredited installers and more are being added every week,” said Healy. “The solar energy accumulated is sold to PG&E for they handle distribution.”
Sunlight not required
Healy reminded how solar panels do not need sunlight to function. There’s always light for them, even on foggy days, to gather. She also noted besides homes and businesses, the new Nissan Leaf automobile relies on solar panels for additional power.
Most homes use them for creating hot water, heating or air-conditioning and yard irrigation purposes.
Solar panels come in a bewildering assortment of sizes, as you can well imagine. Most homeowners and businesses don’t see ‘em after they’re installed. They’re self-maintaining and have no moving parts. But they’re all quite similar – layers of wire and more layers of glass on top in a steel frame. Hence, the “Steel on the Roof” award.
“The big story today is the Clean Energy Advocate program, set up the county,” said Healy. “This is a new utility worked out with the Sonoma County Water Agency to better coordinate solar energy projects and inform people of what we can do, what it accomplishes and how much it costs.”
Free residential assistance
Solar Sonoma County has a free residential and commercial assessment program. For a packet with all the details, call them at 664-6488 or go on line at solarsonomacounty.org.
Yes, it’s true, Sonoma County’s leading the way when it comes to solar energy. Solar panels are everywhere and setting an example from counties in Maine to San Diego.
The concept of harvesting power from the sun goes back a long way, but it’s only been recently its attained enough momentum to make it a worthwhile investment, not only for investors on Wall Street, but even the average homeowner. Its progress could be making Exxon-Mobil a little bit nervous.
“This new Clean Energy Advocate program with SCWA will be up and running by Spring of 2013,” said Healy. “We’re ready right now.”