RS Energy / SunRun - Day 1

2011 June 13
by roma

Today was my first day going from house to house signing up people for RS Energy's solar program. Finally, a job!

RS Energy has partnered with SunRun to offer a 3.24 kW system at an upfront cost of $6000 to the homeowner. RS Energy installs the system, while SunRun owns, insures and maintains the system for 20 years. After the initial cost, the homeowner is able to offset the cost with an annual Oregon tax credit of $1500. For four years! In nominal terms, the system is 0 dollars (check the next post for an analysis of the real cost).

RS and SunRun are able to do this because of the federal tax incentive, as well as the $1.00-$1.25/watt Energy Trust of Oregon rebate (depending on the utility). This IS the program that will start getting solar on the roofs of everyday, non-environmentalist folks.

We convened at 10 AM at RS Energy's offices in Tualatin. Kristin Stringer and Kellyann Lamb of SunRun came at around 10:30 to train us. Kristin and Kellyann, both very thorough and patient, worked hard to instill confidence in us in the pitch. By about lunch, each of us took turns roleplaying the spiel while the others ate pizza.

We headed out to southern Beaverton on our first mission after lunch. Kellyann, who manages SunRun's account managers for the western region, paired up with me to go door-to-door with the pitch. A mom and her daughter were unloading their car in the driveway of the first house we came up to. I stumbled a little at first, but got the ball rolling with the pitch. The woman immediately reacted with, "Solar in Oregon?" Before we had the chance to collect our thoughts on how to counter that after saying "Yes", she said "I wouldn't want those ugly things on my roof." Here Kellyann thanked the woman for her time and asked her to contact us if she ever became interested in installing solar panels.

The next couple of houses had no response. We then came to a house where a woman listened to me and simply said, "I'm not interested." Kellyann thanked the woman for her time. After a couple of more houses with no-one home, we came to a house on the corner. Nobody was home, but a man was getting out of a parked car as we were exiting the driveway. I didn't react, but as we rounded the corner, Kellyann asked me whether the man was coming into the house. Kellyann started out by saying that we were a solar energy company and asked if we could talk to him out on the front porch. Great, smooth transition.

The homeowner was very receptive to solar. One of the elements we are qualifying in this program is a monthly electricity bill over $60. We actually need the electricity bill in order for the solar energy consultant, who will meet with the homeowner, to draft a customized sales proposal. The homeowner said his wife would be e-mailing them to us. I scheduled an appointment with him. I was so excited that I forgot to ask his wife's name, as well as the phone number. Overall, though, great going.

Another couple of houses with nobody home. Then a young Asian lady opens up. I could see she was having trouble understanding me. I started to speak slower. About halfway through the spiel, she said she doesn't know English. I asked her what language she speaks. She said Japanese. Without thinking I asked her what time her husband is around. She said he leaves home early and comes home pretty late.

It was a great opportunity to practice Japanese. I did miss asking if the weekend would be okay. Then again, there was no way I was going to be able to give her our program description on the fly in Japanese. Of course, something to work on in the future.

We rounded the corner again and happened upon a house with a bunch of tools and an electronic drum pad out in the front. The homeowner opened up. He was quite receptive. Upon hearing that we were there to see whether he qualifies for the solar program, he said he didn't. I thought he was just brushing us off, but he knew that his roof was too old. Good lesson for me to assume less. He said he was actually thinking of re-roofing relatively soon. Kellyann didn't skip a beat and asked him to consider us after he had replaced the roof.

We reconvened at a local Starbucks to talk about how everyone did. All in all, pretty good for a first day. I'm looking forward to getting the sales pitch down and doing my share to change how energy is generated in the US.

On that note, I must say that one of the very important things I took home from the NABCEP course was how having solar panels changes homeowners' energy consumption patterns. Homeowners are naturally curious about how much energy their array produces. Once they have the modules up, their energy production capability is limited by their array size. But they can increase the share of energy they've produced by limiting consumption. In this sense, I truly believe residential solar has tremendous potential to change energy consumption patterns, more than other energy efficiency measures! It's nice knowing I will be doing my small part to make this change.

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