Ted Torre Bueno, of Empowered Energy Solutions, was our speaker for the evening.  Mr. Torre Bueno is a member of the San Diego chapter of the US Green Chamber of Commerce and has committed himself to educating the community about energy solutions and sustainability products.  He started his talk be emphasizing his passion for the industry and for informing consumers that there are dubious, predatory and misleading companies in the sustainability industry.  He is on a mission to teach consumers how to become informed and prepared to make decisions about solar panels and other sustainability and alternative energy products.  I tried to comprehend and make sense of what he was teaching us.
Mr. Torre Bueno explained that, for his industry, the best place to look for a solar company is on Yelp.  He suggested looking for a company with at least ten five star reviews.  He also suggested getting at least two to three bids and making sure the companies understand that you are an informed consumer going through a “rational and reasonable bid process”.  He stated that what you really want to know is how much electricity will the system make in a given year.  What is the “solar factor”?  That is the annual production by system size.  He stated that a reasonable solar factor for Carlsbad is 1.6.  What is the size of the system and what is the cost per installed Watt.  Basically, he stated, you want to look at the cost of the system and divide it by the system size to compare and contrast costs across companies.  He stated that most companies do not give a production guarantee but you want to be aware of what is covered.  For instance, if the bills you receive from SDG&E are wrong will the company you are working with go to bat for you to help resolve it?  What are the terms of the financing?  What type of panel and converter are they installing?  Are they covered under warranty?
It was interesting to learn that there is not much regulation of this industry.  As a result, there are many deceptive practices going on.  Clearly, it is important to become informed, either through your own research or using a reputable company such as Mr. Torre Bueno’s.  He was asked about maintenance of the solar panels and his response was “usually it’s called rain”…however, since we live in Southern California he said that a high powered hose sprayed on them on a quarterly basis is all it takes to maintain the solar panels.  However, we can still keep praying for rain.