By Jamie Caulley
For the Hollywood Star News
The sun — constant, predictable and endlessly renewable. It’s energy is 100 percent clean, widely available and the best part — it’s free. Those are the qualities that excite Randy Feldhaus and his three partners at Synchro Solar, 1330 S.E. 8th Ave.
“We totally geek out about it all the time,” Feldhaus said.
Synchro Solar, a Portland-based company, specializes in the design and installation of custom solar systems for homes, businesses and farms. Custom solar design is a common need in Portland’s North and Northeast neighborhoods where unique, older homes and businesses are the norm.
Solar energy systems are increasing in popularity, partially because they are becoming more affordable, more aesthetic and proving to be a sound investment — requiring little to no maintenance and paying for themselves in four to five years with a 25-year warranty. Making the energy in the same place where you use it is also far more efficient. For example, power generated in Boardman, Washington, and transferred to Portland loses about 30 percent of the total energy during transfer; a home solar system loses only 2 percent.
So why doesn’t everyone have solar? The biggest drawback is still the initial investment for the solar panels, their design and installation which can cost approximately $11,000 to $12,000 out-of-pocket for a residential home. However, with credits from the Energy Trust, state and federal tax incentives and low-interest green lending, solar power is becoming more affordable. Costs vary depending on the age, construction and needs of individual homes and businesses, but an average residential customer’s net cost can end up around $2,000.
The really exciting news is that after recouping that initial cost, many customers can supply their home’s electricity at no additional monthly cost. All of Synchro Solar’s projects are grid-tied, allowing solar customers to return any excess power they produce to the power grid, receiving a credit from their local power company. That happens commonly during times of little power use or high solar production, such as Oregon summers. During winter months, night time or high energy needs, customers use their credits to purchase energy back from the power company. The grid-tie allows a seamless supply of energy to the customer.
“It’s kind of like a crop. We just harvest more of it in the summertime,” Feldhaus said.
But does solar really work in the rainy Pacific Northwest?
“We get that question all the time,” Feldhaus said. “We have more average sunlight in Oregon than Germany does, and Germany is the leading solar company in the world.”
Synchro Solar uses panels from Hillsboro’s SolarWorld in most of its installations, keeping the local vibe strong and the quality high. That was an important factor for Bo Gretzyl of ReRack, 2240 N.E. Sandy Blvd., when he decided to convert his business to solar power. Gretzyl was attracted to SolarWorld’s 25-year production warranty, guaranteeing that the panels will produce at least 80 percent of the energy they did on day one, 25 years after purchase.
ReRack’s solar system was designed and installed by Synchro Solar this July. Currently Gretzyl is powering 100 percent of his energy needs with the system and anticipates he will average 50 to 75 percent throughout the year. The renewable, clean energy of solar was a natural fit with his business which buys, sells and installs used car racks.
“We strive to be as green of a business as we can be,” Gretzyl said.
Kevin Cavenhaugh, developer of The Oceans micro-restaurant complex at Northeast 24th Avenue and Glisan Street, also had Syncro Solar design and install the solar system for his family’s personal loft. Installed January of this year, Cavenhaugh’s system has supplied 100 percent of his five-person family’s needs.
Clients interested in learning more about solar energy can contact Synchro Solar by phone or email. From there Feldhaus will complete an online assessment of the property’s solar potential via Google Earth. If the property is a good candidate, then Synchro Solar can come out to do an onsite assessment and submit a proposal to the property owner for design and installation. From there they help clients navigate the permitting process, as well as understand the tax incentives and financing options.
“That is probably one of the most important things that we do. It’s intimidating. We try to walk them through it and make it easy,” Feldhaus said.
For more information: Synchro Solar, 1339 S.E. 8th Ave., Suite B; synchrosolar.com; (503) 208-4786.