solar panels 0119Here is the first thing we should all know today: yesterday my solar panels at work produced 10.6 kilowatt hours of power. 10.6! That’s not quite half a lap at the Monaco Grand Prix. (I have no idea why the solar-monitoring company, Enlighten, uses what it does for comparisons. Perhaps they think this is a universally recognizable measurement, but I have absolutely no idea how long a lap at Monaco’s Grand Prix is, nor how fast they drive, so it’s a rather meaningless comparison.)

Since Ben and I cleaned off the solar panels, and the skies have cleared and the temperature dropped (solar panels love cold weather, is what I’ve always been told), my six-panel array has been quite the little producer. Monday, pre-clearing, we got 1.4 kWh. On Tuesday you can see the progression: we got on the roof around 10:30 and freed the last of the panels from ice and snow an hour later, and you can see the response: at the end of the day we produced 7.23 kWh. Then we were in the 8 kWh range for the rest of the week, until yesterday. 10.6!

I love being able to check on my solar production. I just keep the page/app/whatever we call it open on my computer here at home, and as I scroll through my many open tabs, I check to see how solar production is going. Don’t forget: you can play this game at your home too, by going here.

Enlighten sends us periodic e-mails at work, offering webinars and other information on how to use their page, but it seems self-explanatory to me. Friday they sent one, which I didn’t read, touting that their app is now mobile. So if I knew how to access the internet on my phone, I suppose I could put their app on it and use up all the data Lynn won’t let me use checking my solar production.

(True story: after we dropped the landline and I bought my smart-ish phone, Lynn told me I couldn’t use any data because she was using all of it. I still don’t understand data versus wifi versus hotspot versus any other phone-accessing terminology, so I have no idea what I might be using when. But then Lynn discovered her phone was using up all the data on stuff she didn’t need, and when she turned all that off, there was ample data to spare. But I still don’t use it. At least not intentionally.)

One of our Riverwalk neighbors is John Cattles, who is employed by the county as its facilities manager. The county has kept him busy with a series of construction projects, while John, who is a Green Guy, has kept the county busy by pulling it into the 21st century of alternative energy.

Our new-ish courthouse, which is the ugliest mishmash of architectural styles you could imagine (and to your delight I have an entire blog entry’s-worth of thoughts on the courthouse), is heated (and cooled) by a geothermal system that John wanted to install. It was a big gamble for him, and the county, but it turned out to be quite the jackpot: I believe the county has already realized its return on investment, years ahead of when that was anticipated. I don’t spend enough time in the courthouse to provide a full report, but it seems temperate when I’m there.

About a year ago the Riverwalk homeowners’ association board expanded from three people to five, and John was one of the expansion picks. He may end up dragging Riverwalk (kicking and screaming, I imagine) into the 21st century world of energy as well.

At a board meeting that I attended last summer, John told his fellows (and they are all fellows) that he would like to install a ground solar array on his lot, and he wondered if there would be any issue with that. Thanks to my mother, I blurted (and me not even a board member), “State statute says an HOA can’t restrict renewable energy options put in place by a homeowner.” The resident lawyer started to say something, and settled for, “Essentially, he’s right.”

So far John still doesn’t have solar panels, although I’m with him all the way. I’m also with him on his other plan for Riverwalk solar panels, but now I can’t remember if he mentioned it at that meeting, or just to me when we met one day on a road in Riverwalk.

There’s some section toward the southeast of the subdivision that is communal property, and John envisions putting a small solar farm there. It could produce energy and possibly generate some income for the HOA — or at least pay for the fancy lights on our introductory wall and under the pond aerator and on the American flag I didn’t even notice we had until Lynn pointed it out to me the other day. (I drive past it all the time, but somehow it escaped my notice.) I think the composition of the board may have to change before that one gets explored too far, but I’m in favor.

The Gunnison County Electric Association, of which I am also now a member (proof of which came in the form of our first electric bill) seems to be big on renewables, so it would probably be supportive as well, although due to its contract with Tri-State Energy, a maximum of 5 percent of its portfolio can come from locally-sourced renewables.

GCEA has looked into severing its contract with Tri-State, as neighboring Delta-Montrose has threatened to do for several years, although so far Gunnison is not finding that to be financially viable. Kit Carson in New Mexico paid $37 million (!) to get out of its long-term contract (these uber-energy corporations aren’t dummies, and they tie up their customers with contracts that can be 50 years in term) with Tri-State, and that appears to have increased customer costs substantially.

So the trick in Gunnison County is to get your solar project in NOW, before that 5 percent cap is reached. (The City of Gunnison, which contracts for electricity with MEAN — Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska, I think — years ago established a limit of 50 customers who could install grid-tied solar panels. I believe Pat’s Screen Printing was the third, and I don’t know if more than a total of five have eaten into that limit.)

I asked our contractor, Dusty, if solar panels could go on our new roof by April, because that’s when something called “Solarize” ends (it appears to offer a discount for installation of residential solar panels), but he thinks that’s when the sign-up ends. If 20 people sign up, Dusty pointed out, there’s no way the local solar company could get all those installations done by April. Electrical inspections alone will hold up the process, he said, and since I’ve had to wait for the inspector both for reactivation of my solar panels and on an electrical upgrade, I know he’s speaking The Truth.

Dusty and I may both find ourselves at a meeting this Thursday about Solarize, so I can learn exactly what it is and generally be more knowledgeable then. In the meantime: 10.6!


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