By Marlee Ginter

TURLOCK (CBS13) – One pandemic craze could actually be the medicine Mother Nature needs. People are so pumped to purchase solar panels, one company calls the solar boom “insane.”

Rachael Romine made the investment in solar panels after seeing she was paying hundreds more in utility bills with everyone home during the pandemic.

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“With all of the kids on their devices and everyone home, and then summertime to boot. And I’m also back in school myself so, we had a lot of devices going,” said Romine.

She’s not the only one suddenly on board with solar. A recent report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie shows installations jumped 43% in 2020, reaching a record 19.2 gigawatts of new capacity.

Solar Energy Partners in Turlock added 500 sales representatives and expanded into five other states to handle the uptick in business.

“Most people don’t know but 60% to 70% of your bill can be made up of just a few appliances,” said Phil Horton, president of Mr. Sunshine’s Solar.

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They’re realizing that now that more are spending time home during the pandemic. Horton says he gets roughly 120 calls a day now. The business has jumped more than 60% percent over the last year, but Horton pins it on more than just the pandemic.

“Seeing the inconsistencies of the utility, of the power, of the grid themselves and wanting to have a little bit more independence. The number one thing we got from our customers is they wanted to be self-reliant,” said Horton.

Romine is ready to make more than a money-saving investment. She encourages others to invest in the environment.

“The more research we did, we realized we had the opportunity to lessen our carbon footprint and actually put more energy back into the grid which sounded good too. It’s time we realize that normal wasn’t working. We need to do something now and not just kick that can down the road and expect our kids to fix it,” said Romine.

California is among the top states for annual solar additions for the second year in a row. With a steady increase in customers, the cost of solar power has dropped more than 80% in the last decade.

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Solar could also get a boost from President Biden’s infrastructure proposal that includes a 10-year extension of wind, solar and battery tax credits, which are set to be phased out.