OC Goes Solar Program Launches Fourth Drive

In 2017, a group of neighbors in the UC Irvine community (University Hills) got together and secured a group discount on rooftop solar. Since then, we have completed two more rounds of the program, working with two additional fully vetted local contractors. For these two subsequent rounds, we expanded the eligibility to all of Orange County. To date, a total of 270 homeowners have gotten rooftop solar through our drives.

On July 8, 2020, we launched our fourth drive, which is now open. The last day to sign up is November 1, 2020. To start the process, you can sign up here.

We are a completely volunteer-run group with a mission to help accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy. While we started as an informal group of neighbors, we decided a year or so ago to become a formal nonprofit organization. We have incorporated as a 501(c)(3), while remaining entirely volunteer-run. Our mission is to spread clean energy throughout Orange County. We also want to focus in particular on bringing the benefits of solar energy to underserved Orange County communities. We are planning to help connect these communities with a state-funded free solar program called DAC-SASH that is available for that purpose. Our website is ocgoessolar.org.

This year, we selected two contractors: Aikyum Solar and Barnes Solar. Both companies have offered us very attractive group discounts (below their retail rates) and excellent warranties. You can find the details about their offerings here and here. On July 8, we held a webinar where both companies delivered presentations via Zoom. You can see those presentations here and here.

To choose among the different panel types, we recommend discussing the options with the contractors to determine the best fit for your home.

Description of vetting process:

This spring, a group of neighbors in the UC Irvine community volunteered to participate in the evaluation of contractors that would serve the OC Goes Solar program. The group prepared and announced a request for proposal (RFP) explaining the goals and intent of the OC Goes Solar program. We then sent this RFP to all solar installation contractors who had done work in Irvine in the past year.

The five-person selection committee (one U Hills Sustainability Committee member, three homeowners who previously got solar through this program, and one employee of the Irvine Community Housing Authority) prepared evaluation criteria and scoring guide prior to reviewing each proposal. Each proposal had the opportunity to gain a maximum score of 200 points, based on nine categories. The categories were as follows:

  1. Firm profile
  2. Qualification of project teams
  3. Local Offices
  4. Local employees
  5. Employment practices
  6. Scope of services and schedule
  7. Equipment
  8. Prices
  9. COVID preparedness

The contractors were initially ranked by total combined score. Following the evaluation and scoring of each RFP, two contractors were selected for an interview with the selection committee. During the interviews, the selection committee asked questions that expanded on business practices, construction/installation techniques, and capacity to accommodate the potential demand by interested homeowners.

We also compiled reviews from sites such as the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Google, Glassdoor, and solar company review sites.

Based on all of the above criteria, this year, the selection committee identified Aikum Solar and Barnes Solar to serve the homeowners participating in OC Goes Solar. If you have any questions please email us at solar@uhills.org