Colorado homeowner switches to solar through Sierra Club program
By Carol Carpenter
RMC Communications Team
Jim Hart now has solar panels installed on
his Centennial, Colo., home.
As Jim Hart and his wife Karen relax in the living room of their
suburban Centennial, Colo., home, they feel good—very good—about a
recentdecision they made: to tap the power of the abundant Colorado sun to heat and cool their personal living spaces.
A longtime environmentalist and active outdoors person, Jim grew up in the beautiful Colorado mountains. Like many fellow Coloradans, he understands the value of protecting the natural world and knows how crucial it is for people to find ways to lower their carbon footprints and live in a more environmentally friendly way.
Not only did Jim and Karen recently replace most of their lawn and other outdoor spaces by xeriscaping with native, low-water-use plants that thrive in Colorado’s semi-arid climate, they decided to switch to solar power for most of their energy needs.
They did this by taking advantage of a special Sierra Club partnership with a national solar energy specialist, Sungevity, to install energy-saving solar panels on their roof. The program has been ongoing for the past two years in portions of Colorado and other states around the country.
“When we bought our home last fall, we knew we were going to be living here for a long time,” Jim said, noting that the solar panels, installed in late July, are already soaking up the sun’s rays in a way that will gradually lower the couple’s utility bills and reduce their use of dirty fossil fuels over the long term. “It was our intention to make the space we live in appropriate to the environment, meaning we wanted to use renewable energy as much as possible.”
Jim, a Life Member of Sierra Club, first read about the Sierra Club/Sungevity solar initiative in a Rocky Mountain Chapter Peak and Prairie newsletter. He knew right away the program would be suitable for his and Karen’s home.
“Our house is a good fit for solar for a few reasons,” Jim points out, explaining that his 1980s-era house in an established suburban neighborhood has a nice southern exposure on the front and a simple roof design without complicated angles, which allowed the placement of sufficient panels for his family’s energy needs.
“Also, we don’t have a homeowners association, so there was no hassle with that,” he added. “Don't get me wrong, you still have a lot of waiting and paperwork with your regular utility company and the county, but I did not have to get HOA approval.”
Sungevity, however, is willing to offer assistance to homeowners who are part of an HOA, so that should not deter anyone who might need this service, he added.
Unique solar lease
“I decided to investigate the idea of a solar lease, which is a unique approach that Sungevity takes,” Jim said, explaining that the California-based solar company owns the equipment and takes a tax incentive that passes savings along to homeowners through a 20-year lease. “I learned I would pay a small amount every month for a significant amount off my electrical bill.”
Furthermore, because the system hooks up to his primary utility, Xcel Energy, if more power is generated than used, that power is added to the grid and his meter will run backwards. “At the end of the year there is a true-up on the credits, and if I were to generate more than I use, I would receive a payment from Xcel,” he said.
He also believes in the professionalism and reliability of Sungevity itself, in large part because of its working relationship with Sierra Club. “Sungevity made a donation of $750 to Sierra Club when I signed up,” Jim points out, adding that he personally received a special promotional discount of $1,000 off the price he was charged for the system (the regular cash back/discounted amount is $750).
“It’s a good-size company that is not fly-by-night. They have a professional staff with a dedicated project manager who provides good communication throughout the process. They explained everything to me along the way.”
Another big plus for Jim was Sungevity’s state-of-the-art solar technology. “There is a lot of cheap technology flooding the market right now, most of it from China, and the quality is not the same as the panels that are coming from the U.S. and European manufacturers,” he said. “The panels in my design were manufactured in Germany, which produces 50 percent of their power through renewable sources. They are high quality panels, which is important on an install that needs to last for years.” (Note: Sungevity has a network of suppliers, both foreign and domestic, and if a customer requests all American-made parts, they can accommodate this request.)
Also Sungevity provided him with year-by-year performance guarantees, another huge advantage, Jim notes.
Significant money savings
Eventually Jim expects to save significant money on his utility bills by using solar energy. “The money is roughly even to start with, but as energy prices rise that’s when the savings really start to kick in,” Jim states. “Since I am paying a set amount for a guaranteed number of Kilowatt hours, I will pay the same rate 20 years from now as I do today.”
Savings will vary for different people at different times, Jim further explains, depending on such things as the size of the system installed and whether energy prices rise or fall. “I have a system that generates approximately 63 percent of my yearly needs. Obviously that percentage will be different as the temperature changes and my energy use changes. The 63 percent would be my average for the year.”
Why should other homeowners switch to solar?
“I believe that renewable energy is one of the most important things we can do for the environment,” Jim stated emphatically. “I know I might drive people crazy, and maybe I evangelize on this topic to everyone I talk to, but renewable energy and water are very important here in the West. Just about every other issue pales in comparison. Fortunately, I have been surprised by the reaction of my neighbors; almost every one of them wanted a referral for the landscaper (for xeriscaping) and the solar company for energy information.”
You can join Jim and more than two dozen other Colorado homeowners to add solar panels to your home. Requesting an iQuote for solar is quick and easy. It takes less than 3 minutes. Get started now.
Return to August e-newsletter...