Sunny offer on a rainy day: Red Cup/Solar Epiphany giveaway

Perhaps the most unusual contest we’ve seen in a while: “West Seattle’s first hybrid coffee shop” – Red Cup Espresso – and Solar Epiphany LLC (who provided the photo) are giving away a “complete solar installation” (a 350-watt expandable grid-tied installation). Entries are being accepted at Red Cup starting today, and the drawing is at 3 pm January 26th. Red Cup’s Tricia DiBernardo and Solar Epiphany’s Eric Thomas say this figures into their “2010 resolutions of community dialogue and direct action.” Need more info? Drop by Red Cup (4451 California SW) or call Eric at 206-919-3014. (P.S. They say the rooftop installation at Red Cup has generated more than 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in the past year.)

18 Replies to "Sunny offer on a rainy day: Red Cup/Solar Epiphany giveaway"

  • rnl January 11, 2010 (1:51 pm)

    I’m in!

  • Derek Lunde January 11, 2010 (2:30 pm)

    Great idea Tricia and Eric! If I wasn’t renting, I’d totally take you up on the offer :-) Maybe the give-away solar installation is portable? If not, maybe I could give it to WSB as a kudos for powering our sweet WS News each day?!

  • Amy January 11, 2010 (2:44 pm)

    Wonderful promotion. Also, the staff at the Red Cup couldn’t be nicer. I would encourage anyone to support their business.

  • mark January 11, 2010 (3:06 pm)

    Just a little heads up, the is not functioning, its little more than a welcome page, none of the tabs work. Actually, the “get started” tab works, but thats it, and I can’t get back to the home page after I land there.

  • m January 11, 2010 (3:11 pm)

    1000 kwh equals about $90 per year in energy savings…is that right or am I doing a calculation wrong? How long would it take to recoup the cost of buying one of these? (I’m not trying to be negative; I’m just trying to figure out if these are worth buying.)

  • Daren January 11, 2010 (3:26 pm)

    m, that really depends on many factors, such as location, angle of sunlight (which is why some exist out there that actually “follow the sun” for max. efficiency), weather, personal conservation lifestyle, product…

    i’m trying to research the “tinted glass” solar panels from Japan years ago…

  • Dawn January 11, 2010 (3:53 pm)

    Tricia and Red Cup rock!

  • Jeff January 11, 2010 (4:18 pm)


    Whether or not it is worthwhile depends on your reasons for doing it. On a purely economic basis, it is almost certainly not worth it unless you consider it a hedge against rising energy prices going forward (which may be valid, I’m no market analyst). Payoff period is something on the order of 15-20 years for most residential customers unless rates drastically increase.

    On the other hand, having worked with multiple people who have installed solar panels on their home, the reasons are usually not economic in nature. I would say that having some independence from the grid, and knowing that the power comes from a clean power source are the primary reasons I’ve heard.

  • Thomas January 11, 2010 (5:32 pm)


    I hope that most people’s reasons are not independence from the grid. Most residential systems (this one included) are grid-tied, which means if the grid goes down, your power goes with it.

    The reason the systems are built this way is that otherwise you need to have a system to store the energy, and those batteries are expensive and as they wear out, a recurring cost. Using batteries pushes the systems fully into the realm of non-profitable for a residential setting.

    I’ve looked into the economics of purchasing a system up here. However, even with a generous employee discount they don’t pencil out. The 15-20 years you quote for payback assumes no degradation in power output during that time, which is likely an inaccurate model. I have not come across a payoff model which accounts for reductions in conversion performance. I suspect that in the PNW that we will need to wait for 1-2 generations of new solar converters with higher efficiency before we can get a system that will *ever* pay itself off.

    That being said, Red Cup & Solar Epiphany LLC do indeed rock. Without businesses and consumers willing to invest in the beginnings of this industry it will die out. I’ll be entering the contest. A system won in a contest should pay off the prize tax within 5 years.

  • mark January 11, 2010 (7:27 pm)

    So what you are saying is that when you compare buying a solar system to say, a new BMW, or a hot tub or even a fancy new stove, the solar system is the only one that has even a remote chance of paying for itself?

  • Thomas January 11, 2010 (8:41 pm)


    Not really. In fact I’d say that the BMW and fancy stove probably have more of a chance of paying themselves off.

    When solar panels get old they don’t work as well anymore, the value of the panels is nil.

    The BMW and stove initially decrease in value. However, hang onto that BMW or stove, keep it in good condition and eventually it becomes vintage and increases in value.

    Probably doesn’t apply to the hot tub, but who knows?

  • See You In Tea January 11, 2010 (9:22 pm)

    Go Red Cup/Epihinay! I’m hoping we can enter every time we come through for drink or snack ; )

  • Gene January 11, 2010 (9:36 pm)

    Actually in Washington State there is the equivalent of a feed-in tariff. You make more per kWh generated than you pay, since you are generating renewable energy:

    According to that page, you’ll be paid $.15 to $.54 per kWh generated. The rate depends on a number of things ranging from siting to where the components of your system were made (higher rates for systems manufactured in WA).

    This works out MUCH better than just Net Metering (you’re getting paid at least double what you pay for the same electricity). And yes, City Light comes out and installs a second meter on your line so they know exactly how much you produce….

  • rudy January 11, 2010 (10:56 pm)

    Thanks Gene for finding that source. I was at a CoolMom meeting where Eric talked about the state of the Solar industry. I was thinking I remembered him saying that if you produce excess power, then it goes back into the grid and the city pays you for that – your meter will run backwards.

  • mark January 12, 2010 (6:06 am)


    Actually, the BMW, the hot tub and the stove, while holding some, small value, continue to cost money to operate, beyond your initial purchase. So maybe not…I will go with the solar if its a bottom line, dollars and sense issue, which it isn’t.

  • nmb January 12, 2010 (9:54 am)

    A 350-watt system is a *TINY* installation for a single-family house. I did a full analysis for adding solar panels to our 1200 square foot house. We only have enough south-facing roof area for a 1.5 kW system, and it would only provide 25% of our annual electrical needs.

    I suspect this promotion is just to get a small system in place on a house in the hopes that the owner will opt to expand the system and generate more business for the solar company.

    BTW, I am a huge proponent of solar and other renewable energy sources, but as has been mentioned above, solar is not a great option from a purely economic standpoint (at least not right now with WA’s cheap electricity rates), even when factoring in the incentives that are available.

  • mark January 12, 2010 (1:05 pm)


    Again, if your only incentive is financial, it is never worth it. When gas was at $4 a gallon and you drove 15k a year it was estimated you would save money over the life of your vehicle (5 years) if you bought a clean, used, gas guzzling SUV compared to a new Hybrid. Its about lifestyle and values, not bottom line money saving.

  • Solar Epiphany January 14, 2010 (9:12 pm)

    Allright! Red Cup New Year Resolution #1…(foster community dialogue)….Check! I’m glad to see everyone speaking about the values of going solar. You are all touching on valid points.

    To clear up the economical side…

    30% of your system is paid for by a federal tax credit

    There is no WA sales tax on equipment or installation (ends 2013)

    You are paid for ALL of the electricity you produce until 2020, not just the electricity above and beyond what you use…EVERYTHING (paid $0.15/kWh)

    You save $0.08 for every kWh you produce ($0.15 + $0.08 = $0.23/kWh net value for everything you produce until 2020.

    Another thing most folks don’t think about is the increased “energy value” of your home. Do you think a home that produces 85% of its electricity is worth more than a home that produces 0%? Do some research into things like EPS (energy performance scoring for homes).

    Make sure you’re not stuck with an energy lemon if you buy a new home! And selling your home with a solar energy system will recoup your initial investment, remember, the solar modules we use have a 25 YEAR WARRANTY (they are gaurunteed to put out 80% of their rating in 25 yrs…Thats huge!)

    Again, i’m happy to see people discussing solar. The goal was to create buzz and its corresponding conversations. Keep it up, call with any questions.

    Solar Epiph

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