Some bright ideas
The sun shines down on the earth every day. In fact, June 21 was the sunniest day of the year, at least for the northern hemisphere. But in spite of all that sunshine, some barriers remain for home owners hoping to power their residences with the power of sunlight.
That is where solar industry experts can help.
Enter Whitney Painter and Bart Sheldrake, the couple behind the small Golden business Buglet Solar, which they founded in 2005. Painter also serves on the city’s Community Sustainability Advisory Board.
“We have an amazing solar resource here,” Whitney Painter said. “Bang for your buck, in our area, solar is the way to go.”
The two were asked about some of the misconceptions out there about harnessing the abundant, renewable energy of the sun, and what tips they might have for anyone looking to partake.
One persistent myth Painter and Sheldrake have heard over the years is that homeowners think only properties with large, south-facing roofs can use solar.
“The very best orientation here is actually southeast-facing roofs,” Sheldrake said.
Sheldrake said that homes with very little available roof space may still have options. A car port could be built with solar panels on top. The structure can provide shelter, along with electricity for an electric car, or help power the house. He said the concept of solar gardens, large solar-panel farms in which anyone in the surrounding area can buy a share, can also be an option.
The city of Golden is currently exploring options for a municipal solar garden, which could eventually allow even apartments tenants to have access to solar credits. Several cities including Brighton, Westminster, and Aurora already have such systems in place.
Sheldrake said currently less than 10 percent of the homes in the city have a solar-panel system, far short of the number of homes that could benefit in some way.
“We’d love to see 70 to 80 percent,” Sheldrake said.
Size matters when it comes to solar-panel systems. The average household needs a four-to five-kilowatt-hour system for its electrical needs. Adding an electric car requires another two kilowatt hours. A solar professional can tell a homeowner what sized system will make sense for them, factoring in usage rates and potential energy rebates.
Sheldrake said a good tip for consumers is to adjust to what might be sticker shock by finding out how much up-front cost a new solar panel system might carry.
“With an electric car, it’s like buying a lifetime of fuel,” Sheldrake pointed out.
With utility and state rebates, most homeowners should be able to see their investment returned in about seven years, sooner for businesses, according to Painter.
Still, the two recommend shopping around and getting several estimates for solar work, as prices can vary greatly.
The top tip from Painter and Sheldrake is to always have an installation professional see the residence in person.
“Every house, every situation is different,” Painter said.
They added that any installation team should have at least one worker certified with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.
A good way to get started is to go to the NABCEP website at www.nabcep.org to find contact information for the 11 certified solar professionals in Golden.