High above the valley floor, on a winding lane rightly named Solar Way, blue skies frame Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman’s home. It’s natural that the Aspen native looked to the sun to offset his family’s home energy consumption and protect the clean air above their roofline.
“Living here, solar panels have become so efficient, it’s crazy not to consider them,” said Poschman. “If you have [untapped] solar access, it’s like giving away free money.”
Instead, the savings are going into the Poschmans’ pockets. Last fall Poschman worked with Mike Tierney of Aspen Solar to install a 6.6-kilowatt system, with 22 rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels on the family’s 2,800-square foot house. Last month, the family of four experienced an immediate return on investment via their electricity bills, which dropped almost 95%. The system is anticipated to save $1,050 annually.
“All of a sudden, we’re producing a ton of power.”
This isn’t the first time their roof has been put to use for solar. The Poschman’s home was on the “bleeding edge of solar technology” when it was built in 1979 by longtime valley residents Polly and the late Dr. Harold Whitcomb. The pioneering couple harvested ideas from an Aspen Community School solar road trip through The West, along with salvaged materials from the vicinity, to build the highest tech, lowest footprint house possible for its era.
Their design included solar PV and solar hot water which was experiencing a heydey under President Carter, who that same year installed panels on the White House. Some of their ideas were experimental and, unlike solar technology, didn’t stand the test of time. Take the double-paned, extra-thick windows that had a vacuum system filling up the openings with styrofoam packing peanuts at night to insulate the house and then draining in the morning to let daylight in.
More enduring was the passion of the young, energy-interested friends the Whitcombs hired to help build the structure — a handful of whom would go onto to be leaders in today’s global climate movement. Among the hammer wielders were Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovation, and John Katzenberger, executive director of the Aspen Global Change Institute.
While his house was ahead of its time, Poschman makes no such claims. “I’m a slow adopter,” he said. “Getting solar is not bleeding edge [anymore]; this is a very practical move.”
Poschman priced out solar for his home ten years ago and the estimate was “something like $70,000 with a payback of 20 years.” This time around, the quote came in at just over $22,000, with rebates from both CORE and Holy Cross Energy totalling almost $7,700 plus tax breaks of $4,326. With the Commissioner’s balance reduced to $10,000, he expects a payback period of just over nine years and will save $20,000 over the life of the equipment.
During the process, Poschman also doubled-down on his second home energy assessment in seven years, tightened up leaks with air sealing, and replaced baseboard heat with a ductless mini-split heat pump system. Next up, he’s looking to an electric car he can charge on a battery system powered by the solar on his roof. His goal is living lighter on the planet.
“I want to do my absolute best to reduce my carbon footprint,” said the Solar Way resident. “Clean energy is protecting the blue skies and green hills we love.”
CORE is committed to helping you save energy. If you would like to free technical or financial advising for your renewable energy project, call us at 970.925.9775. Learn more about our residential rebates program here.