From The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 31, 2009, staff writer Onell R. Soto: "Power to the people. One Block Off the Grid uses community activism to build networks of solar energy systems so homeowners can get volume discounts. "
The renovation, the insulation, and the new kitchen all helped, but Meg Goldfeather couldn't get her 1926 University Heights bungalow to save enough power.
She can't stand looking at her three-digit utility bills, knowing she could generate her own electricity using solar panels on her roof.
But the cost has been an obstacle. So when Goldfeather's electrician suggested she look at something called One Block Off the Grid, she was interested.
“The minute I read it, I thought, this is absolutely it,” Goldfeather said. “Community effort, lower price.”
One Block Off the Grid, or 1bog.org, is a campaign that groups together people interested in buying solar power so they can get volume discounts. It is run by Virgance, a San Francisco company that uses activism campaigns to bring about social change while also making money.
After requesting proposals from local solar installers (in San Diego), Virgance enlisted groSolar and Helio Energy Solutions, two companies whose prices – $6.09 a watt – impress longtime advocates of the technology.
“I might have to sign up,” said Bill Powers, an electrical engineer who is looking to expand his own solar energy system. He said many of the region's power problems, such as reliability and prices, would be alleviated if more people put the systems on their roofs.
Per watt, these installations would be less expensive than the massive systems installed on warehouse roofs just two years ago, in part because solar panel prices are dropping, Powers said.
The campaign now underway comes as a worldwide economic slump pushes solar panel prices down and government subsidies make systems more affordable.
A typical household system provides about 3,000 to 5,000 watts at peak production. Its size is determined by how much power a household uses in a month, with the goal being to replace the most expensive electricity.
Residential systems typically cost $7 to $9 per watt, said Irene Stillings, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Energy, which tracks state rebates for such installations.