When the team at Gayler Construction, in Danville, Calif., was looking for ways the company could give back to the community, they discussed green building and how, in an adjacent county, a homeowner had put together a community solar program. “We thought we could do that here,” company co-owner Darlene Gayler says.

Gayler Construction worked with SolarCity, in nearby Foster City, to negotiate an affordable solar installation program for Contra Costa county. Homeowners who participated could pay up-front or request a 15-year lease for the equipment. To qualify, homeowners and business owners had to request a proposal prior to July 31, 2008 and have the solar installation completed by Dec. 31. Every homeowner who signed up opted to lease instead of buy.

George and Darlene Gayler, of Gayler Construction, participated in a solar installation program and had solar panels installed on their California home.
courtesy SolarCity George and Darlene Gayler, of Gayler Construction, participated in a solar installation program and had solar panels installed on their California home.

“In California, we get great sunshine over the summer. You usually create a credit because you’re generating more energy than you’re using. Then that energy offsets gray winter days when you’re not generating as much,” she says.

Once they chose SolarCity, George Gayler negotiated a deal for the group. The Gaylers included a disclaimer in program correspondence saying that they do not guarantee or supervise SolarCity’s work, and they urged homeowners to do their own research. About 35 people participated in the program, nine of whom were past clients of the Gaylers.

Gayler Construction promoted the program by sending out letters to past customers, contacting homeowner associations, sending information to local papers, and through contacts at the local chamber of commerce, city government, and Rotary Club. SolarCity was also proactive and sponsored meetings at which it had the Gaylers speak.

A program participant nominated the Gaylers for a local businessperson of the year award. They did not win, but as one of three finalists, their photo was in the paper. The program has also been nominated for a county sustainability award. “People respect and appreciate our caring for the environment,” Darlene says. “We are now better known in the local community.” Though Gayler Construction did not receive any remodeling leads directly from the program, Darlene is confident it will bring in business.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.