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Solar Case Study – Joseph Rispoli

Avatar for Ben Zientara
Written by
Published on 11/18/2014
Updated 11/18/2014

Joseph Rispoli took full advantage of the “He who hesitates is lost” philosophy, grabbing a chance at a city subsidy for solar when others ahead of him on the list backed out. Despite some issues with his inverters, he’s proud to have been a relatively early adopter of solar, with others in his community now looking to follow in his footsteps.

Unlike the Federal tax credit, which any eligible person can participate in, some credits require approval, a luck-of-the-draw lottery, or other methods to get extra money for moving to solar power. In Joseph’s case, it was just marking time on a waiting list created by his home city. The credits were offered one at a time, person by person. When those ahead of Joseph declined, “We jumped at the opportunity.”

Going solar back when the costs were generally higher than they are presently (due to technology
improvements) meant a significant investment and faith that it would make long term sense. Joseph
told us in our interview that he likes technology, and going solar was a chance to be an early adopter
while moving to clean energy long-term. Sure, there was anticipated added value, but at the start, it’s expensive. Getting that subsidy from the city made all the difference for Joseph. “We just didn’t have the savings to [go solar] without the help we got from the city.”

Once the funding lined up, Joseph next had to convince his HOA that putting up solar panels was acceptable for the community. Though he felt it was his roof and his choice, Joseph followed the rules and submitted his plan for approval. Luckily, one of the members of the committee reviewing Joseph’s plan already had solar panels, so ultimately they gave him the go-ahead. “We were a little worried they’d say no,” Joseph told me.

In the end, neither getting the HOA to let him move forward nor finding an installer proved to be much
trouble for Joseph. In fact, it was the same person on the HOA committee that helped get his plan
approved who hooked Joseph up with his installer. “I filled out some forms from some other companies, but Home Star Solar was the most responsive and competitive quote.”

Word of mouth worked well for Joseph in this case, but unfortunately something beyond his control has led to making repairs to his solar system difficult: Home Star Solar is no longer in business. Any time there’s a problem, even though it’s under warranty, it’s difficult to obtain service. There was an issue with his micro-inverters, which meant that all 26 of them had to be replaced. At the time we spoke, Joseph was trying to run down a DC voltage problem with one of the panels that is causing his array to under-produce. “The guy who actually put up my panels tries to help when he can, but ultimately, I may have to go on the roof myself.”

The issue with the installer, however, is one that’s more tied to the mercurial nature of small businesses than solar power itself. Whenever you use a company, there’s a chance that they may go out of business, especially if they aren’t part of a larger entity. It’s a trade-off between local control and stability. One thing hasn’t changed, however. From growing up using solar power to heat water in
Hawaii to his current electrical set-up, Joseph is a big believer in solar power and its potential to provide cost-effective energy for years to come.

Last modified: November 18, 2014

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