A recent items posted by The Daily Camera, which serves the Boulder, Colorado, area, homed in on the tribulations of a homeowner in the city whose ambition to make his house greener became sidetracked by a key strategic error.
The mistake, which boiled down to the hiring of a contractor who had very little experience with (and apparently no training for) solar power installations, and its consequences serve as an object lesson for prospective PV-system customers.
As The Daily Camera notes, the homeowner, Thomas David Kehoe, was philosophically predisposed to reduce his carbon footprint by making his 1961 tract house as green as possible. A renewable-energy source – a 2,000-watt solar power system – would be the capstone to his quest.
Kehoe did receive a $9,000 rebate on the system, which cost $24,130.15 to purchase and install, from local utility Xcel Energy. He also received a $2,000 federal tax rebate. But he also has had to reckon with a list of problems that could and should have been avoided:
1. underperformance of the system, due largely to the fact that the panels were not located in a spot that maximized solar exposure
2. incompatibility between the system and the wiring in the home, which Kehoe later had to retrofit for solar at a cost of $1,200
3. lack of adequate roof support to offset the wind-shear potential of the panels; about $4,000 was spent on roof reinforcement
4. improper placement of the system’s central inverter, the device that converts direct-current electricity from the panels to alternating current for use in the house. The contractor installed the inverter near Kehoe’s bedroom, which exposes the room to unsafe levels of electromagnetic radiation, he says.
Kehoe told the Camera he is in the process of relocating the inverter and repositioning the panels for optimal performance.
In many parts of the country, the practical, ecological, and financial incentives for going solar continue to grow – albeit at a slower pace than energy-independence advocates would like. Kehoe had his solar electricity system installed in February 2007. Expanded listings posted by industry groups have since made it a bit easier to find an installer with experience and a fair price per installed kilowatt.
The American Solar Energy Society website, for example, offers an extensive list of installers and a ZIP Code-based search tool. The ASES site also features a few state-specific lists, including one for Colorado.