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A solar-buying club sets sights on Los Angeles

February 19, 2009 | 11:27 am

Solar-paneled home

Despite the allure of solar power, installing a residential photovoltaic system is still an expensive and confusing process for a lot of interested homeowners. But a community-based, solar-power buying club called 1 Block Off the Grid is hoping to change that. By bringing potential solar buyers together, the for-profit organization hopes to not only dispel the mystery of the installation process but increase participation by reducing costs.

1 Block Off the Grid's general manager Dave Llorens describes a typical scenario: "The installer comes to your home. You're totally confused. They have all the answers. You have all the questions. They're trying to sell you something, and it's really uncomfortable."

Llorens' proposition: "If you knew there were 300 people all getting the same deal with the same installer and the same price, everyone's much more receptive to listening to the value proposition of the salesperson."

Since Llorens and his two co-founders established 1 Block off the Grid in San Francisco last summer, 45 individuals have installed photovoltaic power systems in their homes. In the fourth quarter of 2008, those installations accounted for 20% of all solar-power installations in the city of San Francisco and had saved its participants an average of 18% in costs.

Now 1 Block off the Grid is expanding its reach to SoCal. According to Llorens, the group is currently selecting its first installer and gathering participants, with the goal of getting its first L.A. home evaluation completed by the end of the month. Anyone interested in learning more about the program can attend tonight's "mixer for Los Angeles people interested in activism and in renewable energy." The event takes place from 7-9 p.m. at Good Magazine, 6824 Melrose Ave., L.A. Info: (310) 691-1030.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times