Keeping the lights on: An ongoing report of local power conditions
Uploaded: Tuesday, February 20, 2001 2 p.m.

Residents enjoy benefits of solar power
Demonstration sites spread throughout city

Come rain or shine, the electricy keeps on flowing for residents on solar power, making for some very satisfied customers.

"It works wonderfully," Otmar Ebenhoech said, referring to the demonstration array on the top of his house.

Ebenhoech owns one of the five homes, offices and schools participating in Palo Alto Utility Department photovoltaic demonstration sites.

"In the summer it provides 50 percent of the electricity we use," he said. "We're very happy with it."

Ebenhoech, however, cannot convert his College Avenue home to 100 percent solar power because of space limitations on his roof, but he did say he would be able to use green power more wisely once he replaces his old refrigerator with an energy-saving model.

"That will free up more power for us," he said.

Besides keeping his appliances running and lights on, he also uses green power to operate his electric car.

"Twenty percent of the juice goes to recharge its batteries," Ebenhoech said of the Chevy Sprint he converted to battery power. "It takes 20 percent of the array for a full charge (two hours)."

Ebenhoech added he has not experienced any maintenance problems with the unit. "It's run continuously since we flipped the switch," he said.

Because he has no battery backup for his home, Ebenhoech relies on standard power from the grid once the sun has gone down.

The solar system has cut his power bill in half, from $48.20 a month to just $24.10. "That's what we're saving. It's a 50-50 split," Ebenhoech said.

"It's an excellent benefit," he added.

Lisa Friedman and her husband, Herman, have also enjoyed the benefits of solar energy.

"Financially, its a good thing to be saving energy," Lisa said. "We want to support clean energy.

"Secondly, we have a continuous power supply. Ours never went out during the rolling blackouts," she added. "And thirdly, environmentally, it's the right thing to do."

Although they have a 5 kilowatt system and a battery backup system, she admitted that during the winter the unit "does not supply all our needs because of the tall trees. During the winter we still use power from the grid, about 50 percent of what we would get in the summer."

Like Ebenhoech, they are also faced with limited space on the roof, which means expanding the system would be difficult.

Tours of the five demonstration sites can be arranged through the Palo Alto Utility Department's Administrative Services Division. Tour dates are predicated upon the number of people requesting a tour by calling (650) 329-2214.

--Marv Snow


Palo Alto Online
© 2000 Palo Alto Online.