Meet the SDG&E Employees Changing the Solar Landscape
Mike Colburn & Ken Parks, inventors of the Renewable Meter Adapter
This article is the third in a four-part series on SDG&E’s commitment to providing solutions for our customers through innovations like the Renewable Meter Adapter.
Start the series from the beginning by learning about the steps to go solar.
Thousands of residents in San Diego and southern Orange counties are saving time and money on private solar installations as a result of innovative technology developed by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), the Renewable Meter Adapter. This success may not have happened if it had not been for two long-time SDG&E employees, Major Projects Manager, Michael Colburn and Customer Generation Manager, Ken Parks.
Ken Parks joined SDG&E in 1978—a time when the internet was in its infancy, Sony had just built the first Walkman prototype, and residential rooftop solar was essentially non-existent in America. As the Digital Revolution of the 70s and 80s introduced PCs, video games and cell phones, forever changing our relationships with technology, the energy industry was also on the brink of major changes that would shape the industry, and Parks’ career, for decades to come.
Fast-forward to 2007: Ken Parks is leading the SDG&E team that connects thousands of private solar panels to the energy grid, working alongside SDG&E Major Projects Manager, Michael Colburn—an electrical engineer and San Diego native.
In 2012, the duo found that expensive and time-consuming electric panel upgrades were creating a roadblock for many customers considering private solar. Beyond inconveniencing homeowners, the intricate electrical work required for a panel upgrade poses safety risks to the contractor.
Colburn reflected, “We knew that there had to be a solution that would make solar accessible to more of our customers and improve their experience. Together, we recognized that if our customers could bypass the panel work, private solar would be more affordable, reliable and safe.”
Parks and Colburn quickly worked to move the project from concept to reality. By August 2013, the team filed a patent for the innovative technology now known as the Renewable Meter Adapter.
The team then selected an American business to manufacture the device, and by August 2015, SDG&E’s began installing the Renewable Meter Adapter.
In less than a year, the Renewable Meter Adapter has helped SDG&E customers save countless hours and more than $3 million collectively in avoided costs for panel upgrades.
“The key thing is that you’ve got to listen to your customers,” Parks said. “If it makes sense and we can avoid time, unnecessary costs and improve the experience for our customers, we will do it.”