The solar revolution has been quietly developing in Sacramento, although there are now several companies that deliver solar energy in some form to residents. ACR Solar International, the home of SolarRoofs.com, based in Carmichael, is a family business that’s been developing since the eighties. The company is run by solar inventor Al Rich, who owns several patents in the solar industry. Al recently did a series of interviews with SacTV to discuss where Sacramento is in the solar revolution.
Two things that set ACR’s systems apart from other solar systems are that they are more aesthetically attractive and they are a high level of effeciency. ACR solar collectors are much lighter in weight than conventional panels, and come in a few dozen colors. Al believes the most efficient systems are leaner, with more emphasis on solar water heating than solar electricity. The company offers solutions for both photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal water heating. Al’s latest product development uses rubber instead of copper tubing, which helps create better heat efficiency with solar hot water.
Solar energy is still pretty far from the mainstream, but it’s much more popular than five years ago. One of the biggest reason solar installations have risen dramatically in recent years is that the cost has been greatly reduced while efficiency has improved. Return on investment with a system designed by ACR can occur as quickly as six years for a solar water heating system. PV systems take more time to break even. Many homeowners have been installing just solar water heaters and have been happy with not only the energy savings, but the increased value for the home.
Al has stayed on the cutting edge of solar thermal technology since founding his company in the 1980s, introducing the Skyline solar heater series. In 1990 while living in Virginia, Al was asked by someone from SMUD to move to the Sacramento area and work with utility as a manufacturer and installer of solar water heating systems. Since that time ACR has been based in Carmichael while SMUD has offered rebates for customers who want to install solar water heating systems in their homes.
The future of solar looks very bright, especially for Sacramento, one of the most ideal places to develop solar energy. Sacramento gets over 300 days of sunlight, so it make sense that the region if filled with early adopters. Solar panels and collectors also communicate a desire for clean energy. One of the practices of ACR is to manufacture solar systems as orders come in. Solar systems on rooftops are just one fraction of the shift toward green energy that is beginning to accelerate. Within the next five years solar is expected to become more prominent with cars, planes, trains, parking lights, ovens and electronic gadgets.