UCSF Sustainability Stories

Sophia Labeko, September 2022

That Time of the Year to Get Solar Panels

When Louis Reichardt, PhD, and his wife returned to live permanently in San Francisco – after seven years of living between The City and New York – they realized they needed a new roof, and after that installed photovoltaics (PV). 

Reichardt (picture right,credit: SFARI), a UCSF professor emeritus and recent Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative Director, appreciates the natural world and thinks it crucial that we preserve its majesty through sustainability, as the first American to summit Everest and K2. “A major reason we installed solar panels was to help combat global warming,” Reichardt explains.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar PV panels, take the sun’s energy and turn it into electricity. In simple residential systems, PV owners use grid electricity to power their homes and the generated solar energy feeds into the grid. These systems are designed with the goal of generating only the energy that is needed. 

Another nice feature is that there is only one electric bill per year - True Up Bill. It accounts for more solar energy generated in the summer and less in the winter. At the end of the 12 months, your provider looks at your annual energy production, and if your panels produced more power than you used, meaning you contributed to the electrical grid, they pay you; if the panels did not produce enough to power your home and you used power from the grid, you pay the bill for whatever was used.

Many people do not realize that besides purchasing PV, homeowners could lease the panels and make electric payments to the PV installers.

The Process

Taking advantage of Bay Area SunShares, a discount program that connects buyers to pre-vetted contractors and is available to UCSF affiliates, Reichardt and his wife attended informational webinars where they were able to listen to representatives from the pre-vetted companies. This allowed them to ask questions and weigh the cost to benefit of their unique offerings. In September 2021 they signed a contract, and the installation work began in February 2022. 

For Reichardt and his wife, the three-month process of installing PV had its challenges. Some contractor crews weren’t as knowledgeable and well-equipped as others. Reichardt suspects that as we get past the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, future individuals in the SunShares program will not have all the difficulties that they experienced. “The epidemic clearly disrupted the labor market. On balance, we are very happy now to have the panels installed. The system seems to be working perfectly,” he says. 

Using solar energy does not conclude their venture into “combating global warming.” They are on the waiting list for an electric car, and plan in the future, to get an electric water heat pump. They installed sufficient solar panels to make this possible.

Discounts to Go Solar

Bay Area SunShares offers discounts on solar and storage and does the contractor search for you, by providing you with a list of pre-vetted businesses in the area. 

Discounts are available just once a year, now – November 15, 2022. Attend one of three informational webinars to learn more.