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3 months of free electricity
SSJID, Aram team up for solar sweepstakes
Troylene Saylor, left, of SSJID listens as Aram Alexander of Aram Solar explains how solar panels work.
You could go three months out of the year without paying PG&E a cent for electricity.

All you have to do is win the “Solar Sweepstakes” being staged by South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Aram Solar. The winner will receive a 2-kilowatt system installed by Aram Solar valued at $14,000. If a home or business uses an average of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, it will lower their PG&E bill enough to zero out the equivalent of three months of use or anywhere from $400 to $1,500 in savings a year depending upon actual tier usage.

Teaming up with a solar firm to promote green energy and reduce consumer costs while SSJID awaits a hearing at San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission on their plans to lower power rates 15 percent across the board dovetails into the irrigation district board’s vision.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields has noted that the board’s aim is to reduce power costs for residents and businesses within the 72,000 acres they serve even if it ultimately is encouraging them to switch to solar which in turn would reduce future SSJID retail sales.

The district itself added a solar farm to the Robert Schulz Surface Water Treatment Plant. It has helped wipe out more than $300,000 in annual power costs. The savings are passed on to the cities that rely on the water including Manteca, Tracy, and Lathrop instead of paying the money to PG&E.

Unlike PG&E, the entire SSJID power generation portfolio consists of renewable green energy.

The partnership with Aram Solar is part of an ongoing effort to lower power bills for residents, businesses, and farming operations in Manteca, Escalon, and Ripon and the surrounding rural areas.

Aram Alexander of Aram Solar has installed nearly 500 solar systems.

“They are not cost effective for everyone,” Alexander said. “But the costs of the panels have come down significantly making the monthly (threshold in) energy costs lower that are needed to make the system pencil out.”

There are also tax credits that can lower the upfront cost of installing solar systems.

Aram Solar works with individuals and businesses to secure financing. Ideally, the cost of the solar system to finance is equivalent to the monthly savings. That way it will flat line energy costs over the life of the loan. Given the fact PG&E in the last two years has averaged three power rate increases annually a solar system would essentially start saving money in the first year. And then when it is paid off, the only electricity cost associated with the system is a monthly mandatory PG&E meter reading charge.

Aram Solar conducts surveys of property to make sure a solar system would indeed be effective.

“Sometimes there are trees in the way that people don’t want to cut down,” said Alexander.

“I’ve declined to do several systems up in the foothill where homeowners live in heavily wooded areas. It has to make financial sense for the customers.”

The SSJID will use the e-mail addresses they gather to keep district residents and businesses updated on their efforts to secure lower power rates across the board.