Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

San Diego Communities Harnessing Natural Power to Provide Energy

From the buildings we work in, to the homes we live in, energy usage is one of the largest impacts in our carbon footprint. Living in southern California, we are lucky to have plenty of sunshine, and

Harnessing the natural power of nature to provide energy.  Einstein showed us the path in 1921 when he won the Nobel Prize for his work on solar power and photovoltaics . And now, in this serene setting above Lake Hodges, 62-year-old Del Dios homeowner John Stewart has gone fully solar.

Stewart: I know of people who have spent $50,000 to $7.00 a month.

Stewart’s modest 1500 square foot home includes solar electric and a solar water heater system. He takes the long-term view – it cost him $32,000 out of pocket after federal and state rebates – but he figures he’ll make that money back and then some.


Stewart: The highest bill that I had in the summer was about $450. To me, this is like free air conditioning, make money -- no brainer plus doing something for the environment.

As a retiree on a fixed income, Stewart says solar makes sense as a hedge against future energy costs.

Stewart: Financially it pays back, so it makes sense financially to do it.

Paying for solar conversions does require some upfront investment.  But Andrew McAllister with the center for sustainable energy says there are financing methods to make it work for your home.

McAllister: So a homeowner who wants to go solar with photovoltaics can expect roughly about a quarter of their system costs, quarter to a third of their system costs to be covered by these various rebates. Really a third if you add the federal and the state rebate for solar pv.

The Center for Sustainable Energy is a one stop shop and a good first step to find out the ins and outs of going solar. McAllister says even the short-term benefits outweigh the initial costs of converting to solar.

McAllister: In general, we’re seeing the market treating solar favorably. You know, the trend towards green is only getting stronger. The, you know, long-term electricity rates. I think, in the California environment, it’s a good assumption that they will continue to rise a certain amount each year, and so solar really is a hedge towards those price increases. Once you have your system, you know, you’re generating your own energy.

Much of San Diego is ideal for solar. There are dozens of subdivisions that would be ripe to use the sun’s energy. What if all these homes were solar? 

Well, most of them are. It’s part of Del Sur , a residential community in San Diego that requires 20-percent of the homes use solar power to generate electricity. Developers of the project expect solar will be required on most new home developments.

Dumka: Clearly in the future it’s almost going to be a necessity in the future. I think it’s going to be standard the way we look at it. We’re somewhat exceptional now but I think in five, 10 years everybody’s going to be doing this. There’s not going to be a choice.

Bill Dumka is with the company developing Del Sur. He says the project shows that there are different ways to integrate the solar on the rooftops. An average home here costs $750,000.

But solar is not just for the wealthy. San Diego County is also home to Solara – California’s first all-solar affordable housing complex.

Jagodzinski: Our carbon footprint has been reduced by ...or planting 5,400 trees a year.

She says this is the first apartment complex fully powered by the sun. And they have a unique solar design.

Jagodzinsksi: I have 836 solar panels here, any kind of architectural design.

The utility bills for each unit run only a few dollars a month.

From large planned communities to apartment complexes and businesses, San Diego is moving toward a solar future.

Going solar has its upfront costs, but like Del Dios homeowner John Stewart, you too can tap the power of nature, save money and reduce your carbon footprint.

Stewart: Now this house was ideal for it -- we’re making money standing here. What can you say to that?