San Diego has one of the highest concentrations of home solar customers in the country. But while the number of solar companies is growing, there are changes coming that could take money out of your pocket.
By one estimate, the average neighborhood solar project runs around $24,000.
Houses along Interstate 15 in Scripps Ranch and in the East County make up the epicenter of San Diego's solar universe.
"The industry is growing by leaps and bounds to the tune of 30 to 50 percent growth per year," said Daniel Sullivan with Sullivan Solar Power.
He estimates there are now more than 200 companies offering solar in the county.
In March, during what is normally one of the slowest times of the year, San Diego County saw the second highest number of installations ever.
One reason for the rush? San Diego County is about to reach its 5 percent solar threshold. At the current installation rate, that’s about 60 days out according to Sullivan.
Until recently, that would have been the end of net metering, or the point where San Diego Gas & Electric credits solar customers for their excess electricity.
The Public Utilities Commission extended net metering until at least 2019, but it did agree with power companies to add new fees once the 5 percent cap is reached.
"Those that go solar after the cap is hit are going to pay probably around $200 more per year on their annual electricity bills than if they’d gone solar beforehand," Sullivan said.
There will also be a one-time installation fee of about $150.
If you want to take advantage of the savings, expect some delay.
"We have to get the permits, we have to secure the equipment and that time line can be roughly 30 days," said Sullivan.
He predicts San Diego will reach its net metering cap by late May or early June, San Diego Gas & Electric is predicting mid-summer.
Keep these suggestions in mind when shopping for a solar company:
- Don't rush into a solar decision.
- Talk to two or three solar companies
- Make sure they can back up their promises.
- Get a reference or referral.