Solar firm study: Cost to install in San Diego reasonable

When it comes to the often sizable expense that homeowners face when it comes to installing solar panels, San Diego is holding its own among other regions in the state.

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But if you’re thinking about pulling the trigger on a rooftop system, don’t be afraid to drive a hard bargain with an installer.

“There’s so much competition, there’s no reason not to get better deals,” said Ryan Willemsen, founder and CEO of the startup Solar to the People.

Based in San Diego, Solar to the People just released a study detailing the costs of residential solar in 12 regions across California.

For purchases, San Diego finished in sixth place — right in the middle of the study’s rankings — with an average cost of $18,540. Orange County finished seventh at $18,866 and Los Angeles/Ventura counties came in fourth at $18,040.

The Central Coast region came in with the lowest average cost in the state at $16,212 and the Redding and Shasta/Cascades area had the highest at $20,698.

But Willemsen said the best way to determine a good deal is to look at the cost per kilowatt because it gives consumers a chance to evaluate the amount of energy production they’re getting per dollar.

“That allows for an apples to apples comparison of bids across installers, because installers almost never propose the exact same size systems,” Willemsen said.

By that measure, Redding and Shasta/Cascades turned in the lowest average, at $3,178 after incentives.

The state average per kilowatt was $3,395 and San Diego finished a few dollars below that figure —$3,378. Orange County averaged $3,430 while Los Angeles and Ventura counties averaged $3,537.

Overall, Willemsen said San Diego is “doing a pretty good job” when it comes to consumers getting a fair deal but he expects prices to drop.

After all, it’s estimated there are more than 100 solar contractors in the greater San Diego area.

“The California solar market is more mature and competitive than other states like New York,” Willemsen said in a telephone interview with the Union-Tribune. “San Diego is maybe the hottest solar market around.”

The Solar for the People study of installation costs did not include savings solar customers can get through net metering or the costs to lease a system.

“The company (that leases an installation) owns the panels and vacuums so they set up a monthly payment with the consumer that can be fluctuating,” Willemsen said. “It’s actually pretty complicated.”

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