I’m Doug McKenzie, I live in Berkeley, having moved back from Palo Alto in 2016. I believe solar power has the greatest benefits and the fewest drawbacks of any electricity source, and therefore (with a little help from energy-storage technology) it will become the dominant power source. I want to help make that happen sooner rather than later.
I’m employed with SunWork, a nonprofit installer focusing on low-energy-use homes as well as small nonprofits. Small solar systems appropriate for low-energy-use homes are difficult to justify economically. Fixed costs including permitting, design, scheduling the truck roll, materials procurement, etc. cause the price per watt of solar to rise, and consequently payback time to elongate, often to well over 10 years. SunWork’s business model – where we have professional project leads on staff who supervise trained volunteers who participate in the installation – allows us to install solar for 1/3 less than traditional installers. This way, we make small solar affordable.
However, we also fully support the rest of the solar installation industry. This why we only install on low-energy-use homes. We periodically research the market, and we’ve found that most people with electricity bills of less than $100/month (average over 12 months) have trouble finding an installer who will work with them, and a lot of trouble finding an installer who can give them an affordable price. So SunWork installs only where the bill is $100/month or less. We exclude electric vehicle charging costs from this ceiling because rapid EV adoption is so important for our neighborhoods (and the world) that we want to support that adoption the best we can.
I give lots of talks on solar and related topics. I started teaching Solar Basics workshops for the Palo Alto Utilities about 5 years ago. Solar is conceptually easy and elegant: shine sunlight on a panel and electricity falls out. But everything else from product choice to choice of installer, to financing and economics, is complicated and confusing. More and more, electric cars and battery storage are part of the conversation, too. My goal is to help people through these components of going solar so they’ll be confident in talking with installers, comparing bids, understanding the financing alternatives, and making the right decisions.
I also work as a solar consultant in the utility scale sector, and worked for SolarTech’s workforce initiative, building relationships with employers and helping displaced professionals find employment. This work led me to become a career coach (see AspirationalCoaching.com), because it turned out that while displaced people knew how to perform their old jobs, and could learn new material, many were hopelessly lost when it came to updating a resume, updating (or starting) a LinkedIn profile, knowing how to interview, and of course knowing how to expand their networking skills and contacts.