Film Producer Sees Hot Opportunity in Energy
Noah Golden, owner and operator of residential and commercial solar energy systems consultancy Golden Energy in Santa Monica, struck the alternative energy market in the wake of California’s electricity crisis. He moved to Los Angeles in 1988, and was a movie producer until he began the company with his own capital in August 2001.
“I started the business because I had a desire to do something idealistic and control my own destiny. I had a longstanding philosophical and intellectual interest in renewable energy technologies.
“The energy subsidies in California have opened up big opportunities for us. A huge amount of this is also driven by the radical spike in energy prices. Californians pay as much as 30 cents a kilowatt-hour, but in some parts of the country people pay as little as 5 cents. For those people, these technologies are not economically viable. Here we have the environmental and air quality concerns and the consumer revolt against the energy companies.
“We have nine people here, but I’m the only one doing this full time. I’ve had about two dozen customers, all in L.A. County. They were all residential systems, in various configurations. Typically we do between two and four a month, and they take two to 12 months to complete.
“Systems for businesses are on an entirely different scale. They see some advantage in being perceived as green either to counterbalance a negative environmental image or to be consistent with their green mission.
“Our most common system is a 3 kilowatt grid-tied residential solar electrical generation system. It costs about $22,000 to design and install and has a life of 25-plus years. After tax credits and rebates, depending on if you’re an L.A. DWP or Edison customer and your level of energy use, it costs between $4,000 and $12,000.
“My greatest interest is not only applying these technologies where they are economically viable, but integrating them attractively in homes. People have a tremendous financial and emotional stake in their real estate investment and the systems won’t be viable if they don’t add to the aesthetic value of the house. We like to design systems for new homes, so they don’t look like they were added on as an afterthought.
“The stereotypes of the people who buy these systems are not true. They come from all professions, classes and parts of the city. They all do a tremendous amount of research before they invest in a system, so I could never get away with doing a thin job.”