Case Studies

Case Study #1

Jen H. of Seattle

Jen H. has lived in her Seattle home for a number of years. She is an urban gardener and huge Seattle Sounders fan!

Jen H

by the numbers:

KW of Solar
Energy Offset
Dollars of Annual Energy Savings
lbs of CO2 annually

When Solterra first met with Jen in January 2017, she was in the midst of planning a number of home improvement projects. Her home was built in 1948 and was still using the original oil heat system.  In conjunction with switching from oil heat to an electric heat pump system, Jen wanted to power as much of her electricity demand from solar. She was also getting a new metal roof installed in the spring, so the timing just made sense!

Jen’s home was originally using 8,300 kWh per year but with the addition of the electric heat and AC, Solterra anticipated her electrical consumption to increase to around 12,500 kWh per year. When considering the design of the solar, Jen was clear: “If we can fit it on the roof, we should install it!”. With that in mind, Solterra designed and installed a 12.76KW install, which was estimated to generate 11,900 kWh in the first year.


Aesthetics were also of concern as her roof was very visible from the street. She elected to install all-black solar panels for the cleanest aesthetic possible. These panels complimented her new dark grey metal roof nicely and had all the neighbors envious.

After having the installation for a year, the system produced 12,900 kWh and Jen’s home consumed 12,500 kWh. She can officially brag about being a net zero energy home!

Case Study #2

Interurban Hotel of Tukwila

Real estate developers Omar and Christine Lee had the vision to bring a modern hotel to Tukwila, WA. Just minutes away from the airport, the hotel was designed with a focus on technology and innovation, so including solar in their design was a natural progression.


by the numbers:

KW of Solar
Custom Steel Structure
Floor Electricity Generated
metric tons of CO2 (Lifetime)

Solterra first met with the Lees in the spring of 2016. The construction had only just begun and the Lees were interested in adding more sustainability features to their project. They were interested in adding renewable energy because they preferred renewable over the alternative choices and it made sense to take advantage of government incentives and tax benefits. When comparing Solterra’s solar + steel cost after tax incentives to their original budget, Solterra’s proposal was about 10% less. Furthermore, SolTerra’s proposal would be helping to offset their energy demand and would be a great marketing benefit.

The steel Porte Cochere structure that would welcome guests to the front entrance of the hotel had already been designed at the point of meeting with the Lees. However, SolTerra was able to work with the structural engineer to adjust the layout of the steel beams in order to best support the solar glass as well as to obscure most of the electrical components that would have detracted from the overall aesthetic. Solterra elected to use Lumos solar panels because they let about 10% of natural light through, and they do not have any exposed electrical components.

Solterra completed the installation in time for the hotel’s grand opening in May 2018. The Lees have received numerous compliments on the final look of the Porte Cochere, plus they will get to claim 30% of the total project cost as a tax credit in 2018 and depreciate the project on an accelerated 5 year schedule.

Case Study #3

Karen T. of Kirkland

Karen T. is a born-and-raised Seattleite who loves where she lives and plans to enjoy her home for many years to come.  She is a WSU King County Master Gardener and also competes on the Sammamish Rowing Association’s Master’s rowing team!

Karen T

by the numbers:

MWh of Solar Monthly
Trees Saved Monthly
First Electricity Bill After Solar
lbs of CO2 Monthly

When Karen first became interested in solar energy, she was looking to offset her electricity consumption after adding AC to her home, and switching to an electric heat pump over the winter. She lives in a split level and face full West with plenty of Southern exposure. With the increased electric load [from the AC and heat pump] – she knew solar was the way to go.

After receiving a couple of bids similar in price, Karen went with Solterra because of the customer service.  She wanted a system that would help meet her energy production goals while being mostly hidden from the street.  She also added an EV charger for a future electric vehicle. 

“I added an EV charger and am trying out a Volt (so far so good!) and also bought an E-Bike (that is super fun!).  It was a big out-of-pocket winter, but when my AC goes on and my PSE bill stays low, there will be plenty of smiles at my house.” 

We used all-black panels, frames, and racking hardware for aesthetics.  Her initial budget goal for the project was smaller, but she elected to go with a bigger system for a larger offset of her electric bill after comparing the payoff for each design.

Karen learned about Solterra through social media and her neighborhood blog.  My Solar Design Consultant, Isaac, gave a great presentation, but I also loved the simplicity of the process: from the education of what solar can do (in which Isaac was very patient), to the electric issues, to the installation and follow up, Solterra made it EASY.  Solterra made sure everything would go as planned, and it did. I love my new solar, and tell everyone about it.  Of course, the question is, ‘What are the payoffs in investment?’.  Solar is a long-term investment that I know will eventually pay off monetarily, but for sure will pay off in doing my part to reduce my emissions. In my opinion, if you love where you live, and are going to stay for a while, solar is a no-brainer. 

Case Study #4

Marine D. and Brad L. of Seattle

Marine is from Bretagne, France and Brad is from South Lake Tahoe, California.  By going solar and converting their lifestyle to be fully “green-powered,” they hope to preserve the planet for the people and activities they love for generations to come.  

Marine and Brad

by the numbers:

MWh of Solar Monthly
Energy Independence
First Electricity Bill After Solar
lbs of CO2 Monthly

For Marine and Brad, going solar was a necessity.  Both are assistant professors of Earth Sciences at the University of Washington studying the impact of climate on geohazards, so the environment is always top of mind.  While Brad studies and teaches about glaciers, Marine’s expertise is in earthquakes.   According to Marine, “it’s natural that we worry about the future of our planet, especially now that we have kids.” 

Marine and Brad wanted to maximize production with the design of their array.  “We have two kids, two grandparents, and two adults in the house…so we consume a lot of energy!”  For this reason, they decided to place panels on both their house and garage, for a total system production capacity of 15.6 kW. They noted that their Solar Design Consultant, Kevin, was extremely responsive, friendly, and willing to work with them on their goals. We also felt bad about owning a hot tub that uses so much energy,” Marine said, “but now the hot tub is power by solar!  The pair was used to monthly utility bills of around $80, but now, the payments have “disappeared!” 

Marine and Brad see electrifying their entire household with solar and transitioning to electric transportation as a game-changer. Already, they are more aware of their consumption, and it teaches them to not use electricity when it’s not needed. They also love the learning opportunity for their very young kids about energy consumption and what should be the new normal.  “We are already spreading the word about solar whenever we can.”  

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