MADISONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Monroe County couple finally has their home’s expensive solar panel system operating. It’s taken nearly four months for Ernie and Sharon Villalobos to get their solar unit turned on despite numerous phone calls for help.
Ernie said it took technicians about six weeks to install 28 solar panels on the back roof of his home in Madisonville and hook up other sophisticated energy-saving equipment. The installation was finished in February but Ernie said they were still waiting for them to be turned on. On May 27, the meter at Ernie’s home read zero solar power being generated.
“The solar panels are still not turned on, I’m paying two bills over $500 a month,” said Sharon.
The installer is Design 1 Solar. Their main office is in Bristol, Tennessee.
“They said it would knock down our electric bill to the electric company and that it would be cheaper in the long run,” said Ernie.
Ernie said the system failed its first inspection, then passed its second. Despite abundant sunlight, no solar power was ever generated. So, months ago, the couple contacted Design 1 Solar for help.
“I have been calling them two or three times a day, they’re not calling me back,” said Sharon.
The couple was promised a rebate check to pay for many of the installments, but never received a real check after the installation.
“It would pay for the first 24 to 26 payments. But then I never received the check after the solar panels were put on,” said Sharon.
The couple took out a loan with Mosaic, one of the top providers of solar loans. Their February bill showed a withdrawal of $276 with a loan balance of $50,000. Remember at the time though no power was delivered by the solar panels.
Then in March, another $276 is paid to their loan, but the balance now is $84,000. So, Sharon called the loan company, Mosaic.
“Then they said, they had to take out their money. Whose money? I don’t understand what is going on, and I can’t get any answers from anyone,” said Sharon.
Sharon has kept notes of transactions with the solar company and loan provider.
“And they told us they would send us paperwork from Mosaic and Design 1 because everything was signed on an iPad from the salesman. We haven’t received anything,” said Sharon.
6 On Your Side sent a detailed message to Design 1 Solar on May 27. Within days the company’s CEO sent the following directives: “call the couple, set up a site visit, send that rebate check, confirm the inspections, check the power company interconnect and turn on the system.”
On June 14 after months of waiting the solar meter no longer reads zero, it is now generating clean energy — plus, that rebate arrived.
“I received it in the mail on Saturday after eight months,” said Sharon.
In addition after eight months, a hard copy of the loan arrived. Sharon said she had never seen the details before nor were they explained.
“It says 16 payments of $276.12,” said Sharon. “Then it goes to $375.73 a month for 281 payments and one payment of $374.72. This is almost double for what I’m paying for electricity.”
Since January when the system wasn’t working, she’s paid $276.12 to the loan company. She’s done the calculations and her total payment to Ft. Loudoun Electric last year was $2200. But in a few years, she’ll pay Mosaic $4500 a year on the loan.
“There is no way 28 solar panels is worth $84,000,” said Sharon.
The system at the couple’s home comes with free service for the life of the unit. Also, there’s a service pledge from Design 1, with a guarantee that if the family doesn’t save on their bill in the first two years, Design One will issue a $500 check.
About their loan and the cost of the system, the Villalobos family hopes they get some of their questions answered.