Business spikes at local solar company


By Kristina Houck

Some San Diego County households and most businesses will have bigger energy bills in September.

San Diego Gas and Electric is raising rates for its high-energy users, about 25 percent of its customers.

Since the rate hikes were announced, more people have turned to solar power, said Erica Johnson, director of community relations and development for Sullivan Solar Power. In the last 60 days, the company has received more than 1,600 inquiries from homeowners interested in solar power installations primarily due to energy rate increases, Johnson said.

“This is the most significant rate hike we’ve seen in the history of Sullivan Solar Power,” said Johnson, who has worked at Sullivan Solar Power since 2009. “We’ve seen a significant spike in business and inquiries. Actually, we’ve received the most inquiries we’ve ever received in the history of our company.”

Based in San Diego, Sullivan Solar Power has installed more solar power systems in San Diego County than any other locally owned and headquartered company, Johnson said. The company has installed more than 2,000 solar power systems since it was founded in 2004.

“Once people are educated about the technology, it makes financial sense as well as environmental sustainability sense,” said Johnson, who noted the company offers free site evaluations to property owners at no obligation.

To inform SDG&E customers about solar options, the company held an open house Aug. 17 at Gil and Patricia Field’s Carmel Valley home. Sullivan Solar Power installed a solar power system at the couple’s home in 2009.

“Our carbon footprint has greatly reduced,” said Patricia Field, a substitute teacher who has lived in Carmel Valley with her husband since 1997. “Being sensitive to caring for our environment and doing what we can is a great value.”

Gil and Patricia Field’s Carmel Valley homeBefore the 20-panel system was installed four years ago, the couple had a roughly $150 energy bill each month. Because the 2,200-square-foot home now generates about 2,000 kilowatts in surplus energy every year, the couple no longer has a monthly bill. In fact, SDG&E now sends them an annual check.

“We were very pleased by this, needless to say,” said Gil Field, a retired Coast Guard officer and Navy civilian contracting officer. “We’re helping to generate clean energy.”

More and more people are turning to solar power like the Fields. In fact, the solar industry grew about 69 percent in 2011, making it one of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy.

Gil Field said he and his wife requested three solar power system proposals from five different companies before deciding to go with Sullivan Solar Power. They received tax credits from the federal government, a rebate from the state and a $9,000 interest-free loan from their church to help pay for the system, he said.

“I would warn people not to snap up the first guy who comes to your door,” said Gil Field. “There are an awful lot of people out there claiming to be solar system providers that last week were in [some other business]. Go with an experienced company.”

Sullivan Solar Power is hosting its Del Mar Highlands Solar Luncheon at 11 a.m. on Sept. 14 at Carmel Valley Recreation Center, 3777 Townsgate Dr., San Diego. The one-hour presentation will cover solar technology, rebates and incentives, and local case studies. Lunch will be provided.

For more information about Sullivan Solar Power, visit