BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
A Palo Alto councilman says the city got ripped off when it paid $275,000 for a website widget that tells people how much money they could save by getting solar panels.
City Council agreed to a five-year contract with Clean Power Research LLC for the so-called solar calculator, technically called the “WattPlan,” in December. Clean Power Research was founded by Stanford alum Thomas Hoff, who previously worked at PG&E.
Councilman Greg Tanaka told the Post last week that he thinks the solar calculator is a prime example of the city wasting money. Tanaka said people can find online solar calculators that will access their solar coverage for free, and pointed out that many solar businesses do free consultations for potential customers.
The Post confirmed with two solar installation companies that operate in the Bay Area, Semper Solaris and Poco Solar, that the companies offer free consultations.
Utilities spokeswoman Catherine Elvert said the city’s calculator tool is more accurate than other online calculators. She said online calculators often have ads for solar installation companies, but the city’s tool is unbiased.
Elvert said residents can compare the estimates from the city’s tool to bids from vendors. She said one resident who used the tool decided to cancel her contract with a solar vendor after realizing she was being overcharged for the solar installation.
The solar calculator is not online yet since the city gave Clean Power 18 weeks to install it.