Last year, just in this county alone, newly installed solar systems kept 221 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere, says a local expert.
The number of La Plata County residents and businesses using the rays of the sun to generate electricity is increasing
rapidly, a solar-systems installer told a crowd of 104, with seven standing, at the Green Business Roundtable lunch on
Wednesday at the Strater Hotel.
We're ahead of the curve compared to the national trend," said John Shaw of Shaw Solar in an interview earlier. But
we lag California - far and away the national leader - because of its 35 percent rebates."
Nevertheless, Shaw said the number of individuals and businesses connecting their solar system to the La Plata Electric
Association grid is encouraging. If they generate more power than they use, the surplus reduces their electric
Jim Hoffman hopes the system that Shaw Solar installed at the 3,100-square-foot house he is building on Peaceful Drive
west of Durango will free him of electrical bills. Thirty-six solar panels, also known as photovoltaic or PV, will
generate electricity, while 10 thermal panels will heat water for home use.
A three-layer foundation with 1,200 feet of hot-water tubing in each layer and special windows will contribute to
keeping electrical costs down.
Our goal is zero net energy," Hoffman said Tuesday. I hope I can meet LPEA once a year, shake hands with no one owing
A number of commercial establishments in Durango have exemplary grid-tied installations, Shaw said, naming Fitness
Solutions 24/7, The Commons building, the Smiley Building and Open Shutter Gallery.
Since 2000, the number of grid-tied solar systems in the LPEA service area has been phenomenal, Shaw said. Seventeen
systems were installed from 2000-07. In 2008, 30 systems were installed and last year, 73 more were added. Shaw
estimated that more than 200 could be installed in 2010.
In 2009, the environmental benefits from the grid-tied systems amounted to 221 metric tons of carbon dioxide kept out
of the atmosphere, Shaw said. The 221 tons is the carbon-offset equivalent of planting 48 acres of pine forests or not
burning 25,000 gallons of gasoline based on Environmental Protection Agency averages, he said.
The trend is up - hugely," Shaw said. New rebates beginning March 10 from the Colorado Governor's Energy Office are
going to push solar in Colorado to the tipping point of affordability, he said.
Why invest in PV now?
Among the answers: photovoltaic pricing has dropped almost 50 percent in the last 18 months; local, state and federal
rebates have never been better; and our air isn't getting any cleaner," Shaw said.
An average home uses 22 kilowatt hours of power a day, Shaw said. A 4,500-watt system would generate 100 percent of
that power on an annual basis. A $30,000 installation could qualify for a $3,000 rebate from LPEA, the same amount from
the Governor's Energy Office and a 30 percent federal tax credit worth $7,200. The total savings could amount to
The Governor's Energy Office has money for about for 415 rebates statewide but there's no information about what
percentage will go to either the residential or commercial category, Shaw said. The rebates apply to new systems only.
Grants will be awarded first come, first served. The program will last through 2012 or until the money runs out.
Federal stimulus money funds the Governor's Energy Office rebates, Shaw said. But winning a solar grant won't be a
shoo-in because it will require a lot of paperwork, an energy audit and pre-approval. Installation must be completed
within six months.
An advantage of solar-electric systems is that installation is as easy in retrofitting as in new construction, Shaw
said. In La Plata County most dwellings are already built, he said.
Homeowners or business people interested in a return for installing PV could profit from looking around for rebates or
tax credits, Shaw said.
The federal government allows a tax credit of 30 percent, which under an accelerated depreciation plan for businesses
amounts to an additional 20 percent over five years.
Shaw has been in the solar field since 2001 and opened Shaw Solar in 2005.