Solar Delivers – Local Investment Earns Faster Than Expected


Submitted by South Sound Solar

“We knew it would be good. The numbers were encouraging. But it is still rewarding to see a system work out so well,” claims South Sound Solar owner Kirk Haffner about Jim Knowles’ solar panel system.

Jim Knowles is a Boston Harbor resident with an extremely energy efficient home. He already had a solar water heater which worked well and was considering installing solar panels on his garage roof. His research told him adding solar panels would reduce his electric bills by at least 50%. What Knowles didn’t know was if solar would work well in Washington, if it would work on his property and if he would ever see any sort of financial return on his investment.

In fall of 2011, Knowles contacted Haffner. “I think Jim was concerned he would have to have all the answers before he talked to us,” says Haffner. “It truly is a collaborative process, though. Owners and installers have to educate each other. Each system is unique. Designing a system is a puzzle taking all the factors, goals, and budgets into account. For me, that’s the fun part.”

In Knowles’ case, the challenge was trees on his property that would shade the solar panels for part of the day. “Obviously shade on solar panels isn’t helpful,” laughs Dever Haffner Kuni, Kirk’s daughter and office manager. “But [South Sound Solar] took the shading into account in our calculations. The estimated numbers still seemed good to Jim. It looked like he’d earn his investment back in five years, give or take. For Jim, that was a reasonable amount of time for something so large.”

After six months of generating solar energy, it appears Knowles will be seeing a return sooner than the five year estimate. Even with a seemingly endless summer, Knowles is still realizing an average monthly profit of $200.

Kuni is cautious talking about Knowles fast return. “You have to understand: every system we install requires its own, individual calculations. We factor in everything we can — shading, direction, average daily energy use. Then you get two straight months of clear skies and the homeowner’s numbers end up looking really, really good.”

“Cloudy days don’t slow down energy production nearly as much as most people would expect,” says Kirk Haffner. “Jim chose the Cascade Series solar panel system which is made here in Washington for the Pacific Northwest climate. It’s designed to be more efficient in cooler climates like ours. It’s not the cloudy days that mess with our estimates so much as the clear days. Funny, isn’t it?”

Homeowners who install solar panels get a break on the sales tax as well as a 30% federal tax credit. Because the Cascade Series is manufactured in Washington State, people who buy the system get paid a higher production incentive: $0.54 for every kilowatt the system generates. “We encourage our customers to buy local. In this case, the higher incentive makes it a real no-brainer decision,” says Haffner.

You can visit the Knowles home this Saturday during the Thurston Solar Tour. He is Site Number #10 PV + Solar Hot Water Site

More information on the Tour can be found at

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