solar panels

Have you ever wondered how green western Sonoma County is and how we are contributing to protecting the environment and combating climate change? One major way we do this is by changing the way we produce electricity.

Household electricity consumption accounts for about one-third of all energy use, so by reducing or eliminating fossil fuels in electricity production, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint as individuals and as part of the towns where we live.

Installing solar panels is the easiest and more effective way to make electricity more sustainable. We know that more western Sonoma County residents each year are installing solar panels on their rooftops.

But we were were curious — just how many rooftops have solar and how much electricity gets generated from them in Sebastopol, Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale? If every rooftop in these four towns had solar panels, how much electricity would this generate? Finally, how much carbon emissions would be saved by all of this?

To help us answer these questions, we partnered with PowerScout, a Department of Energy funded startup based in Oakland. PowerScout’s artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms analyzed satellite imagery from rooftops to determine which homes have installed solar panels and which haven’t. PowerScout ran their algorithms on rooftops in Sebastopol, Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale and reported the findings to us.

The level of solar penetration varies quite a bit between the cities and towns in western Sonoma County. At the highest level, 6.83 percent of homes in Sebastopol have installed solar. This is notably more than Healdsburg, where only 3.02 percent of residents have installed solar.

Windsor and Cloverdale had solid amount of solar installations, with 6.02 percent and 4.67 percent of residents there having installed solar, respectively. Together, there are approximately 1,374 solar installations in these four towns combined.

What is the total environmental benefit of this?

Currently, the existing 1,374 solar installations save a lot of carbon from being emitted. The average solar installation in Sonoma County saves 50 tons of CO2 from being emitted, which is roughly the equivalent of taking 11 cars off the road. This means that these 1,374 solar installations have saved roughly 70,000 tons of CO2 from being emitted, which is like taking 14,656 cars off the road.

Visualized a bit differently, this is the equivalent of not burning 75.4 million pounds of coal. Given that newer coal train cars can haul roughly 286,000 pounds of coal each, this adds up to 264 train cars of coal not being emitted.

Those 1,374 solar installations save residents an average of roughly $1,750 annually on their electricity expenses. This adds up to $2.4 million in total savings.

Thanks to Kyle Pennell from PowerScout.

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