Is the Sun
finally rising on Solar Power?
by Rob Styler
1931, Thomas Edison had a conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey
Firestone. He said, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What
a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run
out before we tackle that.”
We have waited 76 years, but an
innovative company may have finally found a solution. The sun supplies
enough energy to earth in one hour to supply all of our energy needs
for an entire year. But currently solar power produces less than
½ of 1% of our residential energy needs. Why?
In the past, solar power has been too
expensive and too complicated. To switch to solar, people had to invest
their children’s college fund or sell their second car. The average
consumer pays $40,000 to convert their home to solar—plus you are
responsible for the installation, maintaining the equipment, getting
permits—who has the time (or the money)?
A company called Citizenre has a bold
plan to remove all of the traditional barriers to solar power. They
offer: No system purchase. No installation cost. No maintenance. No
permit hassles. No performance worries. No rate increases. No way!?
When we first heard about this from
one of our readers, we were so intrigued that we contacted the company.
It seemed almost too good to be true. Like most innovations, their
model is so simple it makes you wonder why no one thought of it before.
You simply pay Citizenre the same rate
per kilowatt for power that you used to pay your utility company—but it
gets even better. Citizenre will guarantee that your rate per kilowatt
will not go up for 25 years. With ever increasing electricity rates,
this gives consumers peace of mind and can add up to significant
savings. They even have a solar calculator on their website that shows
exactly how much you will save over 1, 5, and 25 years. I saved over
$13,000 and by using clean energy, it was the equivalent of taking 24
cars off the road or planting 400 trees. Nice.
In the past, “going green” usually
implied sacrifice. You get to feel good about saving the planet but
most “green” products are more expensive than their “dirty”
counterparts. With Citizenre, going green can actually save you money.
This is all made possible by net
metering laws that require the utility companies to allow renewable
energy to flow into the grid and then allow the consumer to pull that
same amount of energy off of the grid at no cost to the consumer.
Basically the grid becomes a huge battery. The meter spins backwards
during the day when the sun is shining and forwards at night when the
consumer pulls that power back off the grid.
These laws were passed because
residential energy production was the number one cause of pollution in
the US last year, but there are still 9 states that have not joined the
party. If you live in Alaska, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi,
Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, or South Dakota, the Citizenre
Solution is not an option for you yet.
We were still a little skeptical, so
we asked Rob Styler, the president of their marketing division, some
Q. How can Citizenre afford to install
this complete solar system with no upfront cost to the consumer?
A. Because we handle everything
ourselves from the solar grade silicon to the final installation, we
create savings at each stage of the production. Plus we are building
the largest plant for solar power in the world. When you combine our
vertical integration with our economies of scale, we are able to
produce the final product at half the cost of our competitors.
Q. This sounds like Citizenre required
a large amount of money to make all this happen?
A. $650 million.
Q. Now I know why no one did this
before you guys. So the customer does not have to give any money to
have this complete solar system installed on their house?
A. We require a security deposit,
typically only $500, at the time of installation. They get this deposit
back, with interest, at the end of the contract. If they don’t pay
their bill and walk away from the contract, they lose their deposit and
we come take the system off their roof. They are also required to pay a
monthly rental for the solar energy system.
Q. And how is that rent calculated?
A. By the amount of energy that the
Q. But they are paying the same rate
they were paying before, right?
A. Often it is actually less. We base
our rates on the yearly average for their utility. So we have to base
our rates on the prior year. Since rates tend to go up each year, many
customers will save money on their first bill, and this will only
increase as the years pass. We provide a calculator on our website that
will tell specifically what they will save with their particular
utility and their monthly usage. Many customers save over $10,000 just
by switching to the sun. Our whole mission is to help people join the
solution and stop being part of the problem.
Q. I like that. How long of a contract
do they have to sign?
A. One year, five years, or 25 years.
Over 70% of our customers sign the 25-year contract because that locks
in their rate for the entire term of the contract. If they sign a
shorter contract, their rate is recalculated according to current
energy rates at the end of their term.
Q. What happens if I sign a 25-year
contract and I want to sell my house in 10 years?
A. You have three options. First, you
can ask us to move the system to your new house. We do that one time
for free. Second, you can transfer the contract to the new owner. This
can potentially add value to your house because if energy rates keep
going up like they are and they are 60% higher in 10 years, then your
buyer would get a 60% decrease on their energy bill because of your
foresight. The final option is that you can contact us, tell us that
you just want to end the contract and we will remove the unit. With
this third option you do lose your security deposit.
Q. So is my security deposit the most
I can lose?
A. Obviously if you don’t pay your
bill there will be late fees or if one of our franchisees comes out to
your house to remove the unit and you greet him with a shot gun and pit
bull, we will have to take legal steps to recover our property. But if
the customer is cooperative they should have no worries.
Q. Say I want a system on my house.
How does it work? What is the process?
A. One of our Independent Ecopreneurs
will help you each step of the way. There are some simple questions to
answer about your amount of shade, the direction of your roofline, etc.
After you sign the contract, a solar engineer will come to the house to
design your system.
Q. What if I don’t like the design? Am
I still obligated to the contract?
A. No. You can back out of the
contract with no penalty. You don’t even pay the deposit until after
you approve the design.
Q. Okay. I like the design. I want the
system. What’s next?
A. The installation usually takes
about half a day. The permit process can take as much as 90 days
depending on how cooperative the local utility is, but we handle
everything. All you do is sit back and feel good knowing you are using
clean energy to power your home.
Q. What happens if something breaks or
A. We have a complete worry free
performance guarantee. If the unit ever stops working, one of our
franchisees will rush out to fix it for free. The customer has no
rental charges until the system is working again so we are motivated to
get it fixed fast.
Q. What if my kid hits a baseball
through one of the panels?
A. It is just like renting a car or a
TV. You are responsible for returning it in good condition. We
recommend that customers contact their homeowners insurance to double
check that the unit will be covered under their policy. Usually there
is not a problem.
Q. Wouldn’t I save money in the long
run if I just bought the system?
A. Actually, no. Renting can save you
a significant amount of money, and it protects you from a large
investment risk. We can help the consumer evaluate their options so
they can make a solid decision. Our goal is to have solar power
producing 25% of our residential energy supply in the year 2025. To
make that happen, we removed every barrier we could find to solar
entry. We make solar simple.
Q. I understand that your
manufacturing plant is not completed yet, is that right?
A. Correct. The first systems will be
ready to install in September of 2007.
Q. So why would someone sign up now?
A. First because they lock in their
rate as soon as they sign up. Second, they get in line so they can get
their system sooner once the plant is producing. Third, it also helps
us show the market how many people will go green if we provide an offer
that makes sense on every level, including economically. To quote
Ghandi, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
Q. So how does someone sign up?
A. They just go to
www.jointhesolution.com/pagesincolor and they can sign up for free
right now. Or call 408-924-0846.
Coming soon: A series of
pagesincolor that talk all about solar power.
For now, please visit
to find out more about how you can get solar power for really cheap and
promote getting solar power for really cheap.
888 E Santa Clara St.
San Jose, CA 95116 USA