A retired couple hoped to save money by going solar, but after 11 months, their solar panels were never activated, and their bills were never lowered. The problem? The panels were creating too much power.
Last September, homeowners Ron and Sarah Hall had 36 solar panels installed on their home in Lake Elsinore free of charge - courtesy of Solar City.
"Solar City was one of the best and we decided to go with them," Hall said.
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Solar City was going to make their money in rebates offered through residential energy conservation programs.
"They’re hooked up, but they’re not turned on," Hall said. "They’re saying that the system that I have will generate 128 percent, that’s 28 percent over what they estimated."
SoCal Edison did not allow the Halls to activate their system because it exceeded state standards for residential energy production.
The NBC4 I-Team spoke with Joseph Shetzen, president of Sol Reliable, a solar energy company, about whether extra energy generated by solar panels could be a safety risk.
"It [the panel] will be generating electricity which most probably will just be wasted," Shetzen said.
The larger concern for the state is whether a homeowner exceeding standards for energy production could then turn around and sell it.
A rep for SoCal Edison says producing more solar energy than you can use makes you a potential energy retailer, with that title, you become subject to commercial business regulations and you’re eliminated from any homeowner rebates that come with going solar.
"It’s frustrating," Hall said.
So after 11 months, the Halls don’t have a dime’s worth of savings for going solar. The couple cut ties with Solar City, who promised to remove the panels and restore the Hall’s home to its prior condition.
An email from the solar company read: "Solar City will provide you a statement absolving you of any responsibility for the solar system and the solar agreement."
The I-Team has confirmed that Solar City kept their promise and removed the panels. Unfortunately for the Halls, their utility bill was still the same as it was before the panels were installed.
Solar City told the I-Team the issue with the Halls was unusual and the result of a design flaw that led to miscalculations of the Halls utility needs.
Energy rebate programs remain confusing for many people. Many solar companies offer to do the paperwork for you, as in this case, in exchange for collecting the rebate but as a consumer, don’t assume all obligations are being met.
Make sure to follow up with your energy provider and city government to avoid being caught on the not-so-bright side of going solar.