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SunWork Expands to Heat Pump Water Heaters While Continuing to Offer Solar Post-NEM2

There’s a lot of confusion in the solar marketplace right now in California. With big changes to net energy metering in April of 2023, consumers are trying to sort out whether it still makes sense to go solar. We think it does (more on this shortly). Some solar companies have responded with new creative offerings. Many companies are including batteries as a key part of their product line. Other companies have not been so lucky. One large publicly-traded company, Sunworks, Inc., has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and is no longer in operation according to PV Magazine. Our nonprofit organization, SunWork Renewable Energy Projects, is not related to this publicly-traded solar company with a similar-sounding name. We have no “s” at the end of the word “SunWork”. We like to say, “We put the sun to work!”

Affordable solar and HPWH installation

SunWork continues providing more affordable rooftop solar thanks to our nonprofit model

Here at SunWork, we continue to build out solar projects that we were able to get under contract in time for the April 14th, 2023 Net Energy Metering 2.0 (NEM2) deadline. We were successful in getting many customers grandfathered into this economically compelling arrangement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). (SunWork operates in the San Francisco Bay Area and California Central Coast which is mostly served by PG&E.) We are also signing up new customers who, while they are not eligible for NEM2, can still benefit from our nonprofit approach. We’ve increased the allowable annual kilowatt hour usage requirement to qualify for SunWork to 7,000 kWh annually. For customers who own an electric vehicle, we can subtract the cost for charging the EV from their total annual kWhs used. And customers already starting on their journey to electrification are allowed a higher kWh maximum of 9,000 kWh annually in order to qualify. 

While the value proposition for grid-tied solar under the new PG&E system, Net Billing Tariff (NBT, but also sometimes referred to as NEM3), is not as economically compelling as it was under NEM2, we’ve found that due to recent decreases in solar panel prices, the negative impact on payback periods for customers has been less than expected. What does this mean for our new solar customers? Whereas a typical payback period for a 4.0 kilowatt solar system from SunWork under NEM2 was perhaps 5.2 years, under the new NBT system, a typical payback period for the same system might instead be 6.6 years. Bottom line: Homeowners can still save significantly by going solar. Our nonprofit model enables us to offer solar for up to one third less than a commercial solar organization might charge. We don’t mark up materials such as solar panels and we get help from trained volunteers on the installation. 

Many of our customers want to go solar not only for economic reasons, but also because they want to do their part to help California achieve its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and more broadly, to help slow climate change. SunWork has installed over 6.5 megawatts of solar at the time of this writing. Many homeowners appreciate that we are a nonprofit organization and often get involved by helping with their own solar installations. Homeowners sometimes attend our Volunteer Training Webinar in order to join our team of over 2,500 volunteers in the Bay Area and Central Coast. Learn more about going solar with SunWork on our website.

SunWork expands its services to include heat pump water heater installation

Speaking of carbon neutrality, in addition to solar, SunWork began completing heat pump water heater (HPWH) installations in July of 2021 and as of this writing has installed more than 140 highly efficient water heaters in the Bay Area. We’ve recently expanded this offering to the Central Coast as well. Installing a HPWH significantly reduces a home’s carbon footprint while also providing long-term savings. HPWHs heat water very efficiently by taking heat from the air and applying it to the water in the tank. HPWHs are up to four times more efficient than conventional gas water heaters. In addition, for customers who have enough solar installed, they can effectively heat their water for free. 

As with our solar offering, our nonprofit model enables us to provide HPWHs to homeowners for up to one third less than most commercial installers. Plus SunWork manages all the rebate paperwork for the homeowner and discounts the customer’s invoice upfront by the applicable rebate amounts. In many locations, the cost to install a HPWH with SunWork is less than the cost for installing a replacement natural gas water heater. For income-qualifying households, the entire cost of the HPWH may be covered. We’ve developed a HPWH cost estimator that will provide you with a rough estimate depending on which Community Choice Energy provider you use. Learn more about HPWHs on our website and fill out our HPWH request quote form to see if you qualify. 

SunWork Renewable Energy Projects is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that educates the public about electrification, trains individuals interested in green careers, and installs solar photovoltaic systems and heat pump water heaters with the help of trained volunteers working under the direction of its professional staff. SunWork helps make going fossil free more affordable. Visit https://sunwork.org/.

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