Solar Panels in GVM

Spring 2009 Glacier Viewpoint article by Linda Bell: GVM is slowly going “green” – is now a good time to harness the sun as well? As spring arrives and summer heat is just around the corner, it is hard to imagine those cold days of December when homeowners were hostage to rising fuel costs – whether for propane, electricity, pellets, or snow-covered fire wood.

Jim Paulson from Solargreen
Jim Paulson, Solargreen

Have you noticed that some GVM residents have already installed solar panels to harness our ever-present winter sun? They might be betting on fuel costs continuing to rise, being in their homes long enough to see a substantial monetary gain for their forethought, or having something already installed a prospective homebuyer will jump at. What are the options? A group of interested GVM homeowners met in March with a representative of a Denver based solar energy company to get first-hand information on products that could be easily retrofitted or installed on new construction. While solar hot-water heating for domestic use and radiant heating is still costly, it is becoming more efficient with thermal energy which is four to five times more efficient on average than older photovoltaic technology. Return on the investment with new tax credits may only take between 5 to 7 years in Colorado, depending on usage and primary fuel costs. Solar panels for air heat exchange are much less expensive to buy and install and like solar water heaters work in conjunction with an existing heating system.

The RA 240 Solar Max for example was invented in Newfoundland, Canada, in the early 1990s and is now popular in northeast states. Just think what it can accomplish out here under Colorado’s sunny conditions? Like many similar prototypes it is made of recycled beer and pop cans. In the right conditions it may reach a temperature of 140˚ F just ten minutes after sunrise. Interior air is slowly moved through the panel, heated, and then passed back into the house. The manufacturer estimates the 4’ x 7’ panel which heats up to 2000 sq. ft. pays for itself within three to four years. Basic cost of the panel is $3000; with installation it runs just under $4000.

For a clear explanation of how the Solar Max panels work go to a feature story Denver’s Channel 4 did on an installation in the area at http://cbs4denver.com/green/pop.cans.solar.2.912499.html Click on the video in the upper right hand corner.

There are several types of these panels on the market and some people make their own. A quick search on Google for “solar panels+beer cans” netted thousands of sites, many of them DIY.

However, to qualify for new Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy guidelines) a “manufacturer certification” statement is required. The tax credit for homeowners allows for 30% of cost of solar-water heaters and solar panels, with no upper limit, through 2016 for existing homes and new construction.

GVM General Manager Steve Horsmon said solar panels installed on a house do not have to be approved by the association’s architectural review committee; however larger installations like yard mounted structures do have to go through the process at present.

Colorado House Bill 1270 was signed into law in April 2008 permitting homeowners to install alternative generation devices like solar panels and wind generators despite any express prohibition of these items in recorded covenants, conditions and restrictions applicable to an owners’ home by a Homeowner’s Association or other nongovernmental residential governing body. This bill specifically includes: solar energy devices, wind-electric generators, awnings, shutters and structures marketed for the purpose of reducing energy consumption, garage and attic fans, evaporative coolers, energy-efficient outdoor lighting devices, and retractable clotheslines.

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