Faces of Stellar: Andy Kass

andy kass

Job Title and Description

Monitoring & Service Coordinator

How long with Stellar Solar

I have been with Stellar since September 2013

Best Part of Your Job

The best part of my job is meeting with our customers at the end of their installation process and finishing the setup of their monitoring. The look of happiness on their faces when they realize they no longer have to pay a utility bill is pretty priceless to see.

Challenges that go with it

As far as challenges go, each home I go into is pretty unique when it comes to connecting their monitor to their network. Some people may have a multi-million dollar smart home, while others may have your run of the mill wireless cable modem. We look into what works best for our customers needs and ensure them that their system will be covered for the next 20 years. With technology changing so rapidly in our field it can be a bit of a struggle to keep up, but at the end of the day I will make sure we get the job done right.

“Stellar moment” an experience at Stellar Solar where you, or someone else has gone above and beyond to solve a problem or provide a great experience for a customer.

One of the many “Stellar moments” that sticks out the most in my mind was a customer who had been scheduled for their monitor to get connected after they had received their permission to operate letter. This job was located up in the eastern hills of Poway, about a 40 minute drive from our offices in Carlsbad with little traffic.
Upon arriving at the site I began my normal setup process and discovered that the system was not producing any power. Prior to my current job position I logged some time with our installation crews so I was familiar with diagnosing system issues. Despite this, I was stumped for a good 20 minutes as to what the issue could be. I then discovered a lack of power coming from a breaker powering a sub-panel for our equipment. As a monitor coordinator I typically have limited parts that I need for my section of the installation, since most of it is digital, and in this case I was short a new breaker that was needed to be able to replace this defective one I had discovered. Not only that but here it was Friday afternoon, and rescheduling our customers for Monday without any solar production was out of the question.
I explained the situation to the customer and told them I’d be back with a replacement by 5 PM. So after driving through Friday afternoon San Diego traffic, I got to our offices picked up a new breaker from our back-stock and fought my way back to our patient customer’s home. I then quickly installed the new breaker and saw the system come alive on my monitoring equipment. I then gave them an in depth overview of their system, detailing how all of their equipment worked, and how we will help them over the next 20 years to ensure their system remains online and continues to output power.
The customers were pleased with how quickly the problem was handled, and were excited that they could now see how their system was producing by accessing the app on their phone. Many smiles were had that day, and that was all achieved by means of a little extra effort that showed how “Stellar” we are.

Where are you from originally and tell us about your family

I’m originally from upstate New York. I grew up in the village of Baldwinsville which is about 15 minutes from Syracuse. GO ORANGE! My family is relatively small and based mostly there in New York with the exception of my uncle and his family from Columbus, Ohio.
I have a younger brother who is now 25 that helps my dad with his general contracting business. My mother has been a stay at home mom for the last 30 years and knows how to make amazing chocolate chip cookies. She is also a survivor of Breast Cancer and even with only one lung she is living life as she did before, happy and active. I have two grandmothers, both are nearly 90 and still kicking. My wife, who I met in Syracuse while getting her masters degree, lead me out here once her career took off and now we have been married for over a year and couldn’t be happier.
One interesting tidbit of information about my last name is that it wasn’t always Kass. My grandparents immigrated to the US in the 50’s from the USSR and when they arrived they wanted to make it easier to pronounce their name so it was changed from Kashlakoff  to Kaszlak. After trying on the name for a while for some people it was still hard to pronounce. So in the 70’s our family name was shortened to what it is now.

Top 5 San Diego restaurants (any price point)

5. Ignite wine bistro
4. BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
3. Le Papagayo
2. Solterra Winery and Kitchen
1. Wonderland Ocean Pub

First concert and where

I saw Yellowcard back in 2006 while they were on tour through Rochester, New York. I saw them live in the Water Street Music Hall, an amazing venue and one heck of a show. I even got Ryan Key’s autograph afterwards.
First car or motorcycle
My first car was a 1999 Saturn sedan which was a stick shift.  I was very happy to learn how to drive the right way, so now I can drive any car out there.

Solar Congregations:  How Churches have Embraced Solar


Across the nation, both homeowners and business owners have been enlightened to the benefits of going solar.

With rising utility prices, those with financial savvy have seen the path to financial freedom through solar, and many have made the transition.  The trend has become so ubiquitous, in fact, that even churches are jumping on the bandwagon, hence the newest movement solar: solar congregations.church solar

Inherently, solar power seems to make perfect sense for churches for several reasons.  Most churches work on a low budget, operating almost exclusively off donations, so saving money on expensive power bills is obviously a huge plus.  Most churches only hold congregations during the daytime as well, so the power being produced is being used, and not being sold back the power company for credit.  Also, solar is a natural resource and is therefore a religiously safe power source.  No one can argue with energy that is being derived from the sun.

The only problem with churches trying to go solar is that most don’t have the money for a large upfront payment, and, like other non-profits, they are not eligible for federal solar tax incentives.  That’s why many opt for a PPA, or a power purchase agreement.

Saving money on utilities frees up churches to spend money on other things.   Instead of having to worry about the extra cost of A/C in the summer, churches can have longer congregations and more activities in the heat.  Also, with the increased savings on utilities, the churches have money to spend on other programs and upgrades.

Solar Churches in San Diego

Churches here in San Diego have seen the light when it comes to solar, and are installing panels left and right to cut down on their energy costs.  For example, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego had Stellar Solar install a 73kW, 290 module solar system back in March 2014.  Church Director Robie Evans cited financial reasons and alignment of beliefs for the installation: “Along with this being a very smart financial decision for the church, we feel that going solar is an important expression of our spiritual values which include being good stewards of the planet.”

first unitarian universalist solar

Stellar Solar’s installation at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego.


This year, Stellar Solar installed a system on the Grace Lutheran Church in Escondido.  The Grace Lutheran is a large church and Christian School that has very large facilities.  Stellar utilized the large parking lots at the Grace Lutheran to install solar parking canopies that are powered by 500 Hyundai 300w panels.  This 150 kW system was completed in August and is set to zero out the church’s power bill almost immediately.

grace lutheran solargrace lutheran solar 2

So it’s clear that churches are beginning to wake up to the benefits of solar.  With the benefits of decreased utility costs and independence from foreign oil, solar makes sense for churches as it eases the operating costs off the members of the congregation.  For now it seems, the solar congregation is just getting started.

Faces of Stellar: Annie Eby

Annie Eby: Controller and HR

annie eby

Job title and description 

Controller and HR. I oversee all accounting functions, manage the front office, deal with all new and existing employees, and provide the management team with financial information regarding how Stellar is performing.

How long with Stellar Solar  

16 months.


Best part of your job  

All the employees. We have an amazing group of people! I also love the family dynamic here and how Stellar appreciates each employee for who they are rather than what they can offer.


Challenges that go with it  

The only challenges I have are the standard ones for accounting. Closing the financials in a timely manner!


“Stellar moment”: an experience at Stellar Solar where you, or someone else has gone above and beyond to solve a problem or provide a great experience for a customer. 

This is a hard one as I have seen more “stellar” moments at Stellar than any company I have ever worked with.


 Where are you from originally and tell us about your family 

I am a Southern California girl! Born in Oceanside and raised in Poway. I have an amazing family who have always been there for me and have taught me over the years how important keeping a strong family is. I have been married to my Husband Andrew for a little over two years, and we have three kids who are three years apart – Taylor, Kloey, and Wessley. Every day when I wake up I thank god for the blessings of both my family and my children as they are the driving factor that has made me who I am today.


Describe your perfect day off 

In the summer my perfect day is at the beach. Surfing/body boarding with my husband and kids and barbecuing with friends while watching the sun set. There is nothing better than a beach sunset. In the winter my dream day is on the mountain. I have been a snowboarder for over 15 years and absolutely adore seeing my kids killing it at the sport as well!


 Top 3 San Diego restaurants 

Thai Garden in Oceanside, In-N-Out, Dukes BBQ, Flemmings


First concert and where 

I believe it was Alanis Morisette at the Del Mar Fair in High School.  I went to SO many side show concerts that I can’t remember which one was first!


 First car or motorcycle 

A neighbor gave my dad a 1980 stick shift Toyota Corolla which was totaled in a car accident.  He fixed it, painted the front end with house paint, handed me the keys and said “figure it out.”


To learn more about Annie Eby’s role at Stellar Solar, check out her employee profile at http://www.stellarsolar.net/team.html.

Faces of Stellar: Armando Ramirez

solar work

Job title and description

Installation Manager at Stellar Solar.  I oversee all residential roof mount installations.  My responsibilities include ordering materials for jobs, and managing the installation crews.  I am also responsible for quality control of all installations, which includes fixing any issues we have with systems.

How long with Stellar Solar

I started with Stellar in June 2009.

Best part of your job

The best part of my job is that I am involved in every stage of the installation, from the site survey to the final inspection.  At the end of the process, I love to see the final product and know that the customer is satisfied.

Challenges that go with it

Sometimes, customers’ requests go beyond my responsibilities.  However, according to the company standards of customer service, I am responsible for customer satisfaction, so sometimes I have to think outside the box to come up with a solution that will not affect our installation cost but will still satisfy the customers’ requests.

“Stellar moment” an experience at Stellar Solar where you, or someone else has gone above and beyond to solve a problem or provide a great experience for a customer.

There was one time a few years ago when I had to meet with a customer on a Sunday.  The customer was traveling out of town for the beginning of the installation, and his only day available before the install was on a Sunday morning. So, despite it being my day off, I met with the customer and completed the job.  It was worth it as the customer was very pleased that we worked around his schedule.

Where are you from originally and tell us about your family

I was born in Los Angeles and raised in Mexico until I was 14, when I moved back to the United States. Same story with my wife Perla. I have a 6 year old, Zared, and another boy in the way, Noam.

Describe your perfect day off

My perfect day off is a day at the dirt bike track with my wife and my son. Any time spent with my family is perfect.

Top 3 San Diego restaurants 

-Miguel’s Cocina                                                                               –

-Pho Nam Cali

-Dave and Buster’s

First concert and where

My first concert was a Mexican rock band, Jaguares. It was at the Sport Arena in San Diego about 4 years ago.

First car or motorcycle

My first car was a 1996 Honda Civic that I got in high school.

Faces of Stellar: Gary Takahashi

gary solar collage 3

Job title and description

Electrician: Service upgrades, MCB replacements, Service, Monitor set up.

How long with Stellar Solar

Four years.

Best part of your job

Working physically in the field and the mentally in the office, it’s a healthy mix!

Challenges that go with it

Trying to juggle all the tasks in a 5 day work week…Stellar is very busy these days. My job entails coordinating jobs, scheduling jobs, ordering material, and helping other departments.

Where are you from originally and tell us about your family

I am from Marina Del Rey, California. I am the youngest of two siblings, a brother and sister. I am divorced, but have a great girlfriend of ten years. I have two cool sons. My oldest, Tyler, is thirty years old  and works for Time Warner Cable as a supervisor in Palm Springs.  Jason, my youngest, lives in San Luis Obispo and works for the Gas Company as a Field Tech. My boys are everything to me. My mom is 93 years young, still alive and well.

 Describe your perfect day off day at the beach with girl, my two boys, and their significant others.

Top 5 San Diego restaurants (any price point)

Bistro West (Carlsbad)

Hon Sushi (Oceanside)

BLVD (Oceanside)

Vigilucci (Carlsbad)

Los Olas (Carlsbad Village)

 What was your first concert and where was it?

T-Rex at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

First car or motorcycle

Honda 50 mini trail.

Faces of Stellar: Jorge Garcia

  1. Job title and description

Operations & Maintenance Engineer in the Service Department for Stellar Solar.solar jobs

  1. How long with Stellar Solar

October 2014.

  1. Best part of your job

The best part of my job is resolving a variety of different issues as they come along. I love dealing with problem systems where the solution isn’t immediately apparent, and it takes some figuring out to solve the issue.

  1. Challenges that go with it

The challenges don’t always come in electrical, mechanical or structural form. I am also responsible for Quality Control, which can be difficult due to unavoidable human error. This responsibility, combined with the rest of my duties, sets me up to be seen as the bearer of bad news. However, It does give me the opportunity to resolve a variety of issues and make the company stronger by creating solutions to problems instead of ignoring them and letting them linger.

  1. “Stellar moment” an experience at Stellar Solar where you, or someone else has gone above and beyond to solve a problem or provide a great experience for a customer.

Dealing with service, I come across a variety of different situations with all different types of customers.  One customer had to go out of state to deal with his father going into emergency surgery, due to a car accident.   While out of state, the customer got an email alert form his solar monitor that his PV system wasn’t reporting. With everything else that was going on, he took it as his system wasn’t producing and he feared an electric bill would push him over a financial cliff.  Responding quickly, I took a look at his online monitoring site, and was able to set some of his concerns at ease by explaining that it looked like an internet connectivity problem not a production problem. I got his permission to go out to his home and verify my off-site diagnosis.

The next morning I found his PV system in proper working order and was able to fix his monitoring interconnection. I called to inform him about his system and asked him about his dad, after a sigh of relief he let me know that he out of surgery and doing good. He told me how much he appreciated the quick and calm response and thanked me.

  1. Where are you from originally and tell us about your family.

I was born in San Diego, My wife’s name is Michelle and have two daughters, Amber and Lilly.

  1. Describe your perfect day off

Taking the family down the coast in Baja to eat lobster and body board with my oldest, while my wife and my youngest play ninja against the waves on the beach.

8.  Top 5 San Diego restaurants (any price point)

1.  C Level / Island Prime

2.  Blue Water Sandwich Shop

3.  Goody’s Sushi

4.  Cowboy Star

5.  Porckyland

9.  First Concert

Santana and Mana 1998

10.  First car or motorcycle

1986 Honda 250R ATV for my fourteenth birthday.



Faces of Stellar Solar: Kristin Kirk – Energy Consultant

Every member of the Stellar Solar team plays a key role in our success and our standing as San Diego’s Best Solar Company.  From our energy consultants to our designers to our electricians and installers, each employee is an essential component of the team and is equally important.  These folks all have a passion for the solar industry and have their own unique story to tell.  We will be sharing those stories through a new weekly feature called the Faces of Stellar Solar.  Hope you enjoy it!

Our first entry: Solar Energy Consultant Kristin Kirk.



Describe your job title, and what it entails.

KK: Energy Consultant.  Assisting Residential homeowners in San Diego to determine the best solar option for their needs.

SS: How long have you been with Stellar Solar?

KK: Three years and three months.

SS: What would you consider the best part of your job?

KK: I really enjoy working with people!  And assisting them with a win-win of saving money and reducing the carbon foot print.  Every homeowner that goes solar is doing their part to move towards clean energy.  I enjoy the relationships I build with the customers through the process.

SS: What are the challenges that go with it?

KK: Unraveling misinformation. There can be very long days making sure every question is answered in a timely manner.

SS: Have you had a “Stellar Moment”, an experience at Stellar Solar where you or someone else has gone above and beyond to solve a problem or provide a great experience for a customer?

KK: A customer we installed a few months earlier called me on a HOT Saturday afternoon, in a panic that the air conditioning went out and a breaker in the electrical box was fried… and they had house guests.  There was an assumption that the issue had something to do with the recent solar install.  One of Stellar’s lead installers Mario responded to the call that afternoon and after discovering there was a breaker that needed replacing for the AC — that had nothing to do with the solar install — Mario went and got the part and fixed it for them.  Mario went above and beyond!

SS: Where are you from originally?  Tell us about your family.

KK: I was born on Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland where my family and I lived until I was 7 years old.  We then moved to the Chicago area, where both my parents were raised and I spent the bulk of my childhood there with my parents and two brothers. We are close with our extended family and celebrate the addition of my sister-in-law and niece!

SS: Describe your perfect day off.

KK: Depends on the season, and where that day off is.  Locally, I would start with yoga, followed by a nice lunch with friends, then a massage or some time to work on a creative project.  Then down to the beach for a round of Bocce Ball or Volleyball.  Watch the sunset, and have a beach fire under the stars.  In the winter, I would be enjoying the day snowboarding and taking in the fresh air. Throughout the various seasons I also enjoy traveling, hiking, painting, sculpting, dancing, writing, live music, yoga, snowboarding, volleyball, bocce ball, playing the cello, and reading.

SS: Top 5 San Diego restaurants (any price point)

KK: DaoFu (in Normal Heights), Lotus Cafe (in Encinitas), Le Papagayo (in Leucadia), Fish Shop (in Encinitas or PB), Urban Plates (in Carlsbad or Del Mar).

SS: What was your first concert and where was it?

KK: New Kids on the Block and Tiffany.  In the Chicago area… I was 10 years old.

SS: What was your first car or motorcycle?

A Chevy Cavalier

For more information on Kristin Kirk, visit her employee profile.

The Cost of Solar in San Diego: Numbers Revealed

There are many factors that affect how much a solar installation will cost.

From the type of roof on the home, to the brand of solar panel, every installation is different and therefore the cost of installations are different customer to customer.  That’s why, generally, when potential customers want to know the “average cost of solar” in San Diego, we tell them we cannot give them an exact estimate without knowing the details of their installation first.

cost of solar san diego

Every home has different energy needs.


Everyone thinks they live in an “average” house but in fact, two houses next to each other in a subdivision may have very different energy needs. However, the solar modules themselves make up over half the cost of the solar energy system. So, knowing how many solar panels are needed is a good first step at calculating the cost of a system.

The number of modules needed will depend on how much power your home uses. So, a good way to evaluate what your solar system will cost is to look at your current energy bill, and calculate how much you will be spending over the next 6-10 years.  This is about what your system will cost after you subtract the current 30% income tax credit from the gross amount.

For example, if you are currently paying a power bill of about $150 a month, then for the next 6 years you will be paying $150/ month X 12 months X 6 years = $10,800. And that’s about what your solar energy system will cost after tax credit.

solar home value

Installing solar adds huge value to your home.

So, you recoup your initial investment in about 6 years and, for the next 20 years or more, your electricity is basically free.

Plus, your home is worth more money because you’ve invested this money in your home, increasing its asset value – instead of simply paying it to the power company and having nothing to show for it.

Real estate experts estimate that for every $1 in annual energy costs you save, you add $20 to the value of your home. So, by investing this money in a solar energy system for your home and saving $1,800 per year in energy costs, you are actually adding $36,000 in added value to your home!

Note that the cost of this example system BEFORE the tax credit is $15,429 and that tax credit is set to expire at the end of 2016.  So by going solar in the next 18 months, you will be saving an additional $4,629 by not waiting too long!

It’s very easy for a Stellar Solar specialist to calculate your exact system cost based on energy needs. All we need is a copy of a recent SDGE bill or simply the account number, meter number and zip code – and we’ll do the rest.

For a free quote on a solar system for your home in San Diego, send us your information at: http://www.stellarsolar.net/contact.html

Stellar Solar Sponsoring Annual Summer Fun on the 101 Event

Stellar Solar is a big supporter of the the local arts, culinary and music communities here in San Diego.

In the past few years we’ve sponsored and powered many  events and shows. We are especially excited to announce that we will be sponsoring the beer garden with Lost Abbey and Port Brewing Company at this year’s Summer Fun on the 101, an annual celebration of local music, highlighting Leucadia.

lost-abbeyPORT_BREWING_CO_CIRCLE_LOGOStellar currently supports several local music venues and radio shows.  The Folkey Monkey, an acoustic songwriter’s showcase that occurs every week, is sponsored by Stellar. In addition, Stellar sponsors the popular local radio show Lick the Plate on KPRI radio, featuring Stellars’ own Director of Marketing David Boylan, who interviews local chefs every week.

The Summer Fun on the 101 is set to be an epic celebration of local music in the Leucadia sun.  Featuring local bands, with such greats as the prodigal jazz duo the Mattson Two, and local brews from Lost Abbey Brewing Co., the event is bringing all the local greats to the table.  Combine the band lineup and brews with over $4,000 worth in raffle prizes, including a surfboard, and you’ve got an event you can’t miss.  Come on out to Summer Fun on the 101, and say “hey” to us at the Stellar Solar tent!


It’s Official: North County San Diego Loves Solar

Cities in North County San Diego are catching the solar buzz.

Carlsbad recently finished a $1 million dollar project at Alga Norte Park, and have another solar installation in the works set for the city’s Safety Training Center.  This installation is estimated to pay itself back in energy savings in 10 to 11 years, which to city officials, is worth it.

The ultimate goal of these city solar installations is to save taxpayers money in the long run.   A solar farm installed in 2013 at the San Luis Rey Wastewater Reclamation Plant in Oceanside is already saving the treatment plant $80,000 a year in tax dollars.  Other cities are opening their eyes to these savings, and are following suit.


Declining Solar Costs

Part of this sudden movement of cities toward solar has been because of the rapidly declining costs.  Solar panels have gotten much cheaper due to China entering the solar panel market, and have become more efficient.  Solar installations have also gotten cheaper and faster as company’s get more experience and as training becomes more accessible to workers.  Combine the low price with the government financing and rebates available, and solar has become more affordable than ever.

Other solar projects installed in North County early on are providing examples of just how efficient solar can be here in San Diego.  The Vista Irrigation District, which provides water to residents of Vista, Escondio, and Oceanside, had solar installed back in 2010.  Thus far the system has been performing better than expected, providing 70 percent of the plant’s energy needs, even though it was only expected to provide 62 percent.


Not Just the City

Businesses, churches, and non-profits are taking advantage of solar savings as well.  Stellar Solar recently announced several new commercial solar projects for businesses and churches, including: Advanced Machining Solutions in Chula Vista, Scrooscoop Fastener in Carlsbad, The Leichtag Foundation in Encinitas, Grace Lutheran Church in Escondido, and Northminster Presbyterian Church in San Diego.  Micheal Powers, co-founder of Stellar Solar had this to say about the recent surge in governmental and commercial solar business: “Business owners, nonprofits and churches are feeling the pinch of electric rate hikes as much or more than homeowners and many have found that going solar can have an immediate impact on their bottom line. The PACE program or “Property Assessed Clean Energy” solar loan is being offered in most areas of San Diego County and is a game changer for these organizations.”

So the proof is there: solar will save money.  Not only have consumers realized this, but now city governments and businesses have done the math and realized that they should make the switch.  The fact is that solar is booming here in San Diego, not only on people’s homes, but on city structures as well.

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