San Jose solar pilot program sees success

Success of San Jose pilot spurs SunShare group discount model  Last week, San Jose teamed up with the Bay Area Climate Collaborative to launch SunShare, a new photovoltaic group-purchasing discount model. The model is based on the success of the San José Employee Solar Group Buy program launched in 2009. The model is designed to allow municipalities, companies and financial institutions launch a group purchasing program.

The Collaborative is taking the program out to other groups.

“They’ve lined up Technology Credit Union as a major sponsor for all their members,” said Mary Tucker, San Jose’s supervising environmental services specialist with the Environmental Services Department.

On Friday (March 25), San Jose joined the organization to hold a workshop with local governments and to show how the city created the group discount program, she said. The workshop included a draft request for proposals, information about how to bring people together and more.

The SunShare program will first be implemented by Technology Credit Union, which will use the model to offer group-purchasing discounts to its 74,000 members. The credit union will offer special interest rate loans to its members that decide to pursue photovoltaics.

The credit union is now working to develop a group price discount for its members, according to Tucker.

Under the pilot program, city employees were able to get loans for photovoltaics through the San José Credit Union with a 3.99 percent interest rate, Tucker said.

The city also issued a request for proposals that resulted in a negotiated price of about $4.42 per installed watt for SunPower photovoltaics, Tucker said. The rate was negotiated on a tiered system, with 39 employees choosing to go forward with the program, installing 138 kilowatts of installed solar.

Under the program, 39 San Jose City employees installed photovoltaics on their homes.

“It could have gone higher. Over 130 city employees came to the informational workshops. We had dropouts because of solar orientation; people were not qualified for loans or they chose not to go forward,” Tucker said. “We feel happy with it.”

The city is surveying all those who participated in the program but didn’t go ahead with installing solar on their homes.

There’s also renewed interest in the city program, Tucker said.

“Other city employees are interested in doing it again,” she said. Because of the interest, the city is considering relaunching the program for its employees.

Image courtesy of SunShares.