The winner of SunRun’s “Battle of the Bills” contest in California this summer was the Sato family. Their electric bill at their Oroville home and its 13 acres in June 2011 was $2,400. For having the highest electric bill among participants, the family won SunRun’s solar service for 20 years, which will consist of a 3 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic (PV) for the Satos’ rooftop.
The Satos purchased the property in an attempt to live more sustainably and are using the property to grow produce.
“When we moved to California, we bought 13 acres so we could have a more self-dependent and local lifestyle,” homeowner David Sato said in a SunRun press release. “We have big gardens; we’re building an orchard so we can grow our own produce, and we want to support our needs with renewable energy as much as possible. We’re hoping to grow enough to be able to donate a large portion of the food to the local veterans’ shelter."
The solar array installed on the home will only supply part of the Satos’ electricity use at home and on the produce farm.
“The house is about 3,800 square feet. It’s certainly big but not a crazy mansion,” said SunRun spokesperson Susan Wise. “One of the most important things that this shows is that solar does not discriminate, and there are ways for lower and middle class families to go solar."
“Even if we didn’t win the contest, we’d switch to SunRun because you can go solar without paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket,” Sato said. “The fact that this company lets you lock in low rates for clean energy is a huge draw. The first thing we want to do with our savings is invest in more solar.”
The Sato family had already made energy efficiency improvements to their home, including energy-efficient light bulbs, double-pane windows and new insulation, according to SunRun.
Since the family also is planning to run a small farm on the property, it’s running four water wells, which use a significant amount of energy, Wise said. As such, the final size of the solar array, which will be installed by SunRun partner HelioPower, is still being determined.
“We’re working with them. Because they have the capacity for more solar, we haven’t yet determined the size system we’re actually going to install but the prize portion is 3 kilowatts worth,” she said.
Nearly 100 people participated in the contest, the first of its kind for SunRun, by submitting their June 2011 bill, Wise said.
“We had a range of bill submissions, with runners ups with bills in the $100s and some in the $1,000s and $2,000s,” she said.
“It was definitely a success in terms of educating people about solar [options] in California. That was really the goal, the education component. We’d certainly be open to things like this in the future,” Wise said. “If people live in one of areas we offer service in and want a contest like this, we urge them get on our Facebook page and give us a shout.”
Image courtesy of SunRun