If you have a rather modest electric bill, rooftop solar doesn't always make sense. The same thing applies if you have a rather modest income.
SunWork, a 501c3 non-profit, trains volunteers to install solar systems on the homes of low energy users, in an effort to make solar power more economical for these homeowners and encourage the switch to solar. SunWork performs the design and installation of the ,as well as doing all the rebate and interconnect paperwork.
Since the labor content in a SunWork installation is zero, SunWork's average installed cost per watt is 25 percent less than that of the next lowest installer in the their operating territory of California's San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
The firm works on residential rooftops in the 1.5-kilowatt to 3.5-kilowatt size. Costs to the end user are in the $4.00 to $5.00 per watt range before subsidies and $2.75 to $3.00 after subsidies. So, the rough cost of a system is $5,000 to $10,000 after subsidies. The firm installs mostly REC and SolarWorld panels for their low embedded energy and domestic content, respectively.
Unlike the cutthroat solar companies we usually deal with at Greentech Media, SunWork's CEO Reuben Veek simply wants to spread the word, grow the business slowly and provide vocational training for interested workers. Veek has a wealth of residential solar experience from a previous life at leading solar installer SolarCity.
The firm hasn't taken any government funding and would be comfortable and financially self-sufficient installing 8.5 kilowatts or more a month. The firm has "assembled a great pool of volunteers without any concerted recruitment effort to speak of, and [...] the pool of people eager to volunteer on installations out of interest in green job retraining handily outstrips available volunteer spots," according to the CEO.
As proof of the success of the program, some of SunWork's installers have gone on to jobs with major solar installers.
The low-energy-use eligibility requirements for SunWork's program keeps them from competing with for-profit installers, "in the interest of augmenting the existing residential market for PV rather than dividing it."
Links to the California Solar statistics website that show the stark difference in price between SunWork and other installers are here and here. And here are some overwhelmingly positive reviews from SunWork's customers.