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!

11401530_1001554559856802_5522777264400113851_n

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.

solar-array01

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.

good-roberts

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.

Fifteen Stars in One Day: A “Stellar” Performance

At Stellar Solar, we work hard at customer satisfaction.

So, it’s no surprise that we have more 5-Star Reviews on Yelp than any other solar company in San Diego. But yesterday, we received THREE 5-Star Reviews in a single day and that’s a first! All three came in from customers of Mark Mihelich! Way to go, Mark and thanks to everybody for doing such a good job, from the folks in the office to the guys in the installation crew. You are what make this such a great company to work with!

Our Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/stellar-solar-san-diego

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The Rise of Commercial Solar in the US

Commercial solar is booming.

Why? Business owners are all about cutting costs. Savvy businessmen know that even the most minute of costs, whether it be the price of printing paper, or the energy used to pump AC into an office, can add up to seriously cut into profits.  That’s why commercial solar panel installation has had such a boost in the past few years; the dropping price of solar has made commercial solar too cost effective to ignore.

The Benefits of Commercial Solar

The reasons that these businesses are switching to solar are clear.  First, solar lowers operating costs.  For commercial users, the price of electricity has gone up more than 20 percent in ten years, moving from $0.08/kWh to more than $0.10/kWh.  The commercial sector as a whole consumes 1.3 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) each year, so combined with the rate increase, billions of dollars are being lost to the rising bills.  Producing their own power means businesses can greatly cut in to these operating costs.commercial solar

The second reason that businesses are going solar is that energy rates are volatile, and companies need stability in order to plan for costs and expenses.  Electric companies can hike rates whenever they want, so commercial solar makes sense for business owners because they can produce their own power without having to worry about the changes in energy rates.  The more predictable energy and operating costs are, the more effectively businesses can plan out their expenses.

Commercial Solar Installation in the US

As of August 2014, the top 25 companies with the most solar capacity have deployed more than 569 MW at 1,110 different facilities; enough power to light up 115,000 American homes.  That’s a growth of 28 percent over last year, and is double that of the capacity in 2012.  The amount of solar installed on businesses across America is now enough to offset 549,296 metric tons of damaging carbon emissions.

A large portion of the commercial solar installed this year was on businesses that have installed solar before and are seeing the positive effect on their bottom line.  These companies are seeing the savings are now aching for more commercial solar panels.  As of August 2014, the companies with the most solar capacity (in Megawatts) are:

  1. Walmart (105.1 MW) – This represents a 15 MW jump from last year, affirming that Walmart is the solar king of all corporations.
  2. Kohl’s (50.2)
  3. Costco (48.1)
  4. Apple (40.7)
  5. Ikea (39.1)
  6. Macy’s (20.8)
  7. Johnson & Johnson (17.8)
  8. Target (14.9) – Target installed 15 new solar systems this past year.
  9. McGraw Hill (14.1)
  10. Staples (13.7)

While Walmart may have the highest solar capacity by a long-shot, they also have many more facilities, and a lot more stuff to power.  Thus, while they may have the most solar capacity, 95% of their facilities still do not run on solar.  Some companies have managed to power a large amount of their facilities through commercial solar panels, such as:

COMPANY PERCENT SOLAR
IKEA 87%
GM

43%

VF Outdoor 33%

 Commercial Solar in San Diego

Many businesses and institutions in San Diego have had commercial solar panels installed as a way to cut costs.  Stellar Solar has been a trusted commercial solar company in the area since 1998, and has installed commercial solar panels on several prestigious facilities such as the Salk Institute, Scripps Ranch High School, San Diego Cardiac Center, Loyola University, City of Anaheim, US Foods, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and Cedars-Sinai Hospital.  With the 30% US tax credit, these businesses saved a bundle by having 30% of their commercial solar installation costs subtracted from their federal income tax payments.

So it’s clear as to why businesses are making a mass move towards solar.  It greatly cuts down on operating costs by saving money on energy, and unchains businesses from the volatile rates of the energy companies.  Solar saves money, and provides stability, which is why there has been such a rise in commercial solar installations in the US.

san diego commercial solar

A Stellar Solar System installed on The Salk Institute.

Source:  http://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-means-business-2014-top-us-commercial-solar-users

3 Reasons Why Solar Has Gotten So Cheap

The solar industry has changed dramatically in the past five years, some would even say that it’s in a “boom”.

Since 2010, the amount of solar installations has grown exponentially, with the amount of the amount of installed solar capacity topping 6,000 Megawatts in 2014; nearly six times that of the amount installed in 2010.  What can explain this huge uptick in solar sales?

The price.

Graph via SEIA.org

Graph via SEIA.org

While we would like to believe that US citizens have all suddenly woken up to the environmental benefits of going solar, we are more inclined to believe that the falling price, and the savings that are yielded, are the real motivation behind the sudden switch.  In years past solar wasn’t quite worth it, but now homeowners cannot turn their heads away from the numbers.  Solar is now too good of a deal to deny, mostly due to three factors:

1. Cheaper Panels

Probably the biggest contributing factor to the price of solar installations dropping is the fact that solar panels are much cheaper than they used to be.  A recent report by the SEIA found that the price of photovoltaic solar panels has dropped 63% since 2010.  The reason for this can be partly attributed to China, when a few years ago they decided to enter the solar market.  The Chinese opened up a ton of panel factories, so many in fact that there was a surplus of panels once these manufacturers hit the market.  This surplus caused the price of panels to plummet, and they’ve stayed low since.

 

2. Easier Installationssolar

As with any business, the biggest cost for solar companies is labor – paying the guys who install the solar system.  While solar installers aren’t being paid any less than they used to, they are working faster and more efficiently.  New technologies that allow panels to be simply snapped in place have allowed for installations to take a quarter of the time they used to, which saves the solar companies money, in turn saving the solar consumer money.

3. Financing Options

New financing options have allowed for a new economic class to access solar.  While a new solar system may cost $25,000, solar companies like us at Stellar offer financing options to fit a wide variety of budgets.  Most companies offer a lease or loan option, with lease agreements typically lasting 20 years.  Stellar Solar offers a zero money down, 1.89% solar loan along with a solar lease that is backed by industry leader Sunpower.

So it’s clear why solar panel installation has gotten so cheap, and thusly, so popular.  With a plummet in panel prices, cheaper and more efficient labor, and affordable financing, solar has never been cheaper or more accessible.  Projections show that these prices should remain stable or drop even more over the next few years; a good indication that solar will continue to boom.

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