Santa Barbara’s Community Environmental Council began their “Solarize Santa Barbara” program this month to increase domestic use of sustainable energy and reduce the community’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The CEC will run the campaign from May 1 through July 31 and aims to install solar panels on 50 homes in Santa Barbara. The council will work alongside REC Solar and Sun Pacific Solar Electric to provide residents with discount installation rates, in-home consultations and custom solar panel designs.

REC Solar co-owner Cecilia Villasenor Johnson said she hopes the campaign will educate the local population about the growing cost efficiency of solar energy.

“It can be a large sum of money up front but now that we have some financing available, going solar will be more accessible to middle-class residents,” Johnson said. “A second issue for people tends to be a bad past experience, like a previous bad installment and so they are left with the idea that solar doesn’t work or that solar is ugly. We are trying to change that view by participating with the CEC in this program.”

The CEC’s “group buy” program is similar to that of the popular website Groupon. The prices per watt are $5.60 for regular and $6.30 for premium energy cells typically marked at $7.05 and $7.20.

CEC’s Renewable Energy Specialist Megan Birney said the potential savings and energy waste reduction will vary on a case-by-case basis.

“Most people will not zero out their fossil fuel use with their solar panels,” Birney said. “People who have an electricity bill around $200 to $250 a month versus those who have $50 to $70 bills a month will see bigger savings, and faster. Basically, the more you use, the more your bill will decrease.”

The two solar panel companies will give the CEC 15 cents for every watt installed during the promotion.

Additionally, REC’s Solar Energy Consultant Shawn Jacobson said the company will match the custom panels to any home’s exterior.

“When we draw up a solar system design, we are very aesthetically conscious and definitely try to blend it in with the architecture of that particular home,” Jacobson said.

According to Environmental Affairs Board Co-Chair Teal Riege, a fourth-year ecology and evolution major, the campaign is an effective educational tool for the community.

“We have definitely had people within EAB work as interns with solar companies,” Riege said. “Hopefully this promotion for solar goes well, because it sounds like a really good deal. Santa Barbara is a progressive town and hopefully this trend will catch on here and spread.”

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