New One-Stop Advanced Energy Center Offers Glimpse Of A Greener Home And The Path To Get There

A storefront that opened last month on Fourth Street in downtown Santa Rosa does not hawk merchandise or invite customers for a meal or drink.

The people there are pushing for the possibility of living a more energy efficient life and offering help to make that transition.

But they’re also marketing something more subtle: the chance to feel empowered to act in the face of accelerating climate change.

“This installation is about giving people hope,” said Geof Syphers, CEO of Sonoma Clean Power. “There are things you can do that are not that difficult that can save you money as well.”

Syphers spoke to the agency’s new Advanced Energy Center on Wednesday, which was developed with a $ 9.8 million grant from the California Energy Commission. The site is both an exhibition and demonstration center, a training center and a reference office.

Visitors can browse exhibits and exhibits on energy efficient heating and cooling systems, electric induction cooktops, heat pump water heaters, radiant wall and floor heating systems, chargers and batteries electrical and other technologies.

The center offers courses to help homeowners and contractors learn how to incorporate low-carbon technologies and appliances into their renovations, and also provides assistance in identifying installers. Customers can also learn how to obtain financial incentives and affordable financing where available.

Staff members can also help consumers understand how technologies that seem expensive to start up can often pay for themselves quite quickly.

The goal is to lower the barriers to greater energy efficiency for all income levels and make it less daunting as well.

“A lot of it is about getting people to ask questions and giving us the opportunity to talk to them about it,” Syphers said.

Syphers recalled a Cloverdale resident, known for its high summer temperatures, exclaiming about how he cut his electric bill in half after installing a more efficient heating and cooling system.

Syphers suggested the man throw a party and tell his friends about it.

“This is what we really want,” said Kate Kelly, public relations and marketing director for Sonoma Clean Power, “for people to engage with us.”

Built in the former home of the Stanroy Music Center near Fourth and E streets (the music store has since moved), the Advanced Energy Center was born out of a program created by the public electricity supplier following the fires. of North Bay in 2017, which destroyed 5,334 homes in Sonoma County, Kelly said.

The Advanced Energy Rebuild program allowed participants to earn up to $ 17,500 for increased energy efficiency in their new homes and was first used by Pacific Gas & Electric in the town of Paradise, which was destroyed by a fire in 2018.

The Advanced Energy Center is the next step in extending the use of renewable energy to regional constituents using a model that can be replicated elsewhere.

The center is funded by a grant from the California Energy Commission Electric Program Investment Charge program, which promotes the increased use of renewable energy and the advancement of electrical technologies in buildings, businesses, and transportation.

“What Sonoma Clean Power is doing with the Advanced Energy Center is a bold and revolutionary model for others,” CEC President David Hochschild said in a press release. “The Energy Board is proud to support this effort to bring the climate-friendly cooking experience and new building technologies directly to interested Californians. This kind of education and awareness is essential as the state is stepping up its efforts to reduce emissions from buildings by using clean energy to power more things.

Sonoma Clean Power, launched in 2014, is now one of 23 community-based energy providers in California offering more renewable and local alternatives to their customers, delivered through PG&E equipment. His efforts have also focused on advancing clean technology through incentive programs to help encourage early adopters to join us.

The utility has offered incentives to buy electric vehicles for several years, until there are more on the market and a critical mass of people buying them, Siphers said. Then, the focus was on the supply of charging stations to encourage latecomers.

Now the focus is on transitioning to greener homes and helping with that transition.

Where there has been news of municipal efforts to ban natural gas in new construction in various cities, for example, much of the backlash has come from foodies reluctant to forgo gas cooktops – mainly because that they think electricity means the coil burners of the 1950s.

At the new center, they can borrow burners or watch demonstrations that show how quickly and cleanly induction burners work, said Syphers and Kelly.

The new site had a smooth opening in June and is slowly filling up with exhibits, with about 25% of the way to go, Syphers said. Training is also in the process of moving from online training to in-person training.

A grand opening is slated for November, but so far around 20 people a day have been walking around, mostly early adopters, curious passers-by, or people waiting for a table to open in the nearby brewery.

Among those who came this week were Dustin St. John and his father, David, who is also the contractor for a new home his son is building at Coffey Park in Santa Rosa.

They bought the first batch sold after the Tubbs fire in 2017 and had decided to use low carbon technologies in the reconstruction.

“And then we found this class to do it,” said Dustin St. John while admiring the designs before his training session.

Syphers said he recognized that it might take time to refine the facility’s operations and mission, and to understand exactly what it means for it to be “successful.”

But Sonoma Clean Power is committed to the concept and the mission.

“We’re really clear it’s a long game,” he said.

More information is available at

You can contact editor Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or [email protected] On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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