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Frenchtown Inn uses sunlight to generate power

Frenchtown Inn uses sunlight to generate power

Photo: Charles Sharp pictured in front of the Frenchtown Inn tasting room.

Tucked away on 100 acres in the rural heart of north Yuba County, Frenchtown Inn opened two years ago catering to a diverse customer base of people looking for a quiet, relaxing weekend for farm stays and gatherings in the country. A barn converted into a wine tasting room overlooks a small serene lake frequented by egret and geese.

On the roof of the new wine tasting room, a sophisticated solar electrical system is quietly generating enough power to meet almost all of the inn’s needs without distracting from the tranquil ambiance of the rural setting.

“It’s quiet,” said Charles Sharp, the owner of Frenchtown Inn. “It doesn’t make any noise and that’s how it’s supposed to be. You don’t have to think about it. This is the best system you could ever have.”

Sharp says he is happy with his decision to hire a crew from Grass Valley-based business, California Solar Electric Company, to install the system on the roof of the tasting room. He says the choice to go solar is a win-win for his wallet and for the planet.

The inn is now a power generator, feeding electricity back into the Pacific Gas & Electric Company grid system. Sharp took out a fixed rate bank loan to pay for the system, so he will enjoy immunity from seasonal spikes on his monthly utility bill. With electricity rates expected to increase in California, a predictable energy bill is another reason going solar appeals to Sharp.

“I don’t have fluctuating costs. It’s basically running the meter backward,” Sharp said.

A system that would take care of all the inn’s needs would typically require a large ground mount, but California Solar crews were able to install a state-of-the art solar electric system on the roof of the tasting room, without distracting guest’s views of the natural landscape. With ample power provided by the panels, Sharp will see a significant dent on the inn’s electrical bill.

Using powerful, super high efficient panels from San Jose-based company SunPower, the crew from California Solar was able to install far fewer panels than would be required for a system using conventional panels.

“Fewer panels means fewer components and connections,” said Martin Webb, California Solar’s Commercial Sales Manager. “Fewer components and connections means increased reliability.

“An added benefit of the roof system is it will shade a south-facing sunny roof that previously absorbed a lot of heat, which will help to reduce the need for air conditioning inside the tasting room,” said Webb.

Webb says the financial benefits of going solar are numerous like the obvious bill savings, federal tax credits that wipe out 30 percent of the cost of installation, and increased property values. But choosing renewable energy goes beyond monetary perks.

“What is not so obvious are the real world benefits and ripple effects of going solar,” said Martin.

Solar energy generated from Frenchtown Inn will stay in the local community, support local businesses, local jobs, and generate local tax revenue. Lower cost, cleaner and more efficient power, produced on-site, saves precious earth resources and reduces air pollution. When Frenchtown Inn produces more energy than it needs, excess power will flow back through the lines where it is needed by the neighborhood. Over time, savings will help fund much-needed capital improvements for the inn.

For Sharp, who cares deeply about the community he has called home for decades, the decision to go solar is one that makes sense.

“Let’s use the planet and resources in the best way we can,” he said. “We solve environmental problems by how we spend our resources. That’s how we’re going to change things.”

California Solar has served Gold Country for nearly 20 years. Learn more at californiasolarco.com.