Eden Prairie couple combines solar electricity with efficiency and durability (they did their homework)

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Silicon Energy solar panels

After meeting David and Anne Florenzano at a CERTs event at the Silicon Energy solar manufacturing plant in Mountain Iron, I caught up with David recently to ask him more about their project and how they decided to go solar.

Joel Haskard: How did you first start thinking about getting solar for your home?

David Florenzano: We’ve always been interested in solar energy, but never felt it was getting much traction, nor was it affordable. At the Minnesota State Fair Eco Experience building, we talked to Dan Williams with Powerfully Green who had set up some solar displays there. We learned about some of the advances in solar panel technology, and of the rebates that were available, which were substantial, finally making solar a viable option—it really got us interested.

Joel: What were some of the factors that ultimately helped you decide to schedule an installation?

David: A number of things. Our roof was damaged in a storm and needed replacing. While talking about solar energy at the State Fair we also learned a little bit about steel roofs. We began to think that solar panels combined with a steel roof might make a great, long-term combination.

We went on the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society energy tour in October, where, along with other sites, we were able to actually go to Dan and Rebecca’s home—from Powerfully Green—to see their own solar panel arrays and learn even more. They came to our house and did a thorough assessment of our site for its solar feasibility. We had a good site with the exception of 5 large ash trees, whose shade diminished the solar exposure of our roof. We have a LOT of trees around us, and knowing that the emerald ash borer may take the ash trees anyway—two of them already severely damaged by lightning—we decided to take them down to give our site the high percentage of efficiency necessary for solar.

Dan referred us to Pat Quarve at Quarve Contracting for our roof, whom he had worked with at the State Fair and specializes in steel roofs. In discussing the installation of a steel roof, how it would work with solar panels and how to solve our ice dam problems, Pat Quarve in turn recommended SustainMax to help us really seal up the house to prevent the escaping heat that causes ice dams and reduces efficiency. An energy audit showed that we were losing a tremendous amount of heat through our recessed can lighting.

One thing led to another, and we proceeded with a three-pronged project: SustainMax added more insulation in the attic giving us a 20% improvement in the tightness of our house. Then Quarve and Powerfully Green coordinated their schedules, with Powerfully Green installing all the mounts for the solar racking first. Then Quarve installed new steel roofing, with flashing around all the solar mounts to ensure there won’t be any leak problems. Powerfully Green will install the actual solar panels this spring.

Joel: Who manufactures the solar panels?

David: We decided on the Silicon Energy panels, made in northern Minnesota in Mountain Iron.

Joel: Why did you decide to go with Silicon Energy?

David: Not only were we impressed with the durability of the panels, we loved the idea that they were made in Minnesota, that we would be contributing to Minnesota jobs and would be helping to support a Minnesota industry. Not to mention… there was another rebate for buying MN-made panels that we benefited from!

Joel: Any last thoughts to share with home owners thinking about going solar?

David:

  1. First of all, we recommend that you work with people who have real expertise. We felt that with Powerfully Green, Quarve Contracting and SustainMax, we were dealing with real professionals. Their expertise, and the cooperation among all three really helped the project go smoothly and we were always able to get all of our questions answered.

  2. Second, we feel that it is all inter-related: the use of the insulation to conserve as much energy as possible, the integrity of the roof and the solar panels. So we would recommend doing your homework and making sure all facets of your project are thought out before you begin.

  3. Third, take advantage of all the rebates available! It really made the difference in making this project possible. If you’re thinking about it, do the research to see if it’s possible for your site and what it will truly cost you in the long run.

We are not done with our project yet: we have yet to get the solar panels installed and we can’t wait! We were able to tour the Silicon Energy manufacturing facility on January 8 at a Northeast Clean Energy Resource Team event, knowing that the panels that will be installed on our roof in the spring may be among those we saw being made. We came away from that tour more impressed than ever with the durability of the solar panels we have chosen. We know that we currently use more power than the solar panels will supply, and we are happily accepting the challenge to cut our energy use so that we will not use more than the power supplied by our solar panels. So even before we get them installed, it is already making a difference!

Watch a quick video from the January 8th tour of Silicon Energy to see what David means when he talks about the durability of the panels (wait till the end):

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