PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology
PATH Case Study
Photovoltaic Solar Electric Systems:
A Veteran Builder Finds Something New Under the Sun
Printable Version [.pdf, 380 KB]
Bruce Wolfe, Project Manager
Mid-size Production Builder
The WillowCreek at Peppertree Park project in Fallbrook, California, combines solar technology and energy-efficient design in 73 single-family homes ranging from 2,870 to 3,640 square feet. The homes exceed California's Title 24 energy requirements by over 40 percent. Each home is also ENERGY STAR® qualified and has earned recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy's Zero Energy Home Program and ConSol’s ComfortWise® program. About 18 homes are scheduled for completion each year through 2008.
"Our houses are selling well, and PV systems are part of an environmental package that I think is responsible for our success."
-- Bruce Wolfe
[IMAGE: Carefully interconnecting each module, two crew members tie in the first two rows of the integrated PV system with the concrete roofing tiles.] "Solar technology has a lot of pizzazz with customers," says Wolfe. "Our houses are selling well, and PV systems are part of an environmental package that I think is responsible for our success. Home buyers have been very excited about the overall package that includes a wide range of energy-saving features. Our sales are brisk at a time when other builders are experiencing a cooling in the market."
"If you put yourself in the homeowner's shoes and think about the fact that you are producing electricity when you are not home and then using it when you get home, that's pretty cool. It's a big money saver. We estimated that the solar panels could provide up to 60 percent of power requirements for these homes. As it turns out, our homeowners have been happily surprised at their $50 utility bills. These same homeowners were accustomed to paying bills in excess of $200 a month and welcome the savings. On our model homes, the utility bills have actually been less than half of what we expected they would be."
THE ADDED VALUE OF SOLAR
"Based on the decision to build environmentally friendly homes, our energy consultant, ConSol, suggested installing solar panels, improving the building envelope, and using efficient home products."
"My main role was managing the installation and complying with the rules and procedures set forth by the utility company. Since the PV systems are interconnected with the utility grid, it takes a lot of coordination with the utility company. A substantial amount of paperwork is required from the very beginning of the project until the time you hand the keys over to the homeowner."
At first, Wolfe found the cost of the system and the complexity of the utility's paperwork difficult to justify, but multiple rebates and lots of assistance from the local utility overcame his concerns.
"Due to the uniqueness of the project and our participation in ENERGY STAR, Zero-Energy Homes, and ComfortWise, we experienced a number of advantages during the construction process. The first was receiving discounts on the county plan check and permit fees to the tune of 7.5 percent. Second, our plan check process was expedited, which allowed us to begin construction sooner. Lastly, our contract with the PV supplier was based on their handling the California State rebate processing. So even though each PV system cost roughly $18,000, the State rebate was approximately $9,000. ConSol is also looking into whether we can receive federal incentives based on the recent energy legislation."
"We were also very fortunate that our local utility had people focused solely on solar technology and were able to help us comply with regulatory mandates. The utility's solar specialist has been my hero, having guided me through the paperwork required to complete the regulatory process."
"The utilities' requirements can be intimidating at first, but our utility contacts were extremely friendly and very patient. They really helped speed the process and I'm not sure we could have done it without them. The utility process didn't hold us up at all. It simply required an extra area of focus."
Developer Duane Urquhart was intent on developing a community of environmentally sensitive, superbly crafted homes. He chose Bruce Wolfe (pictured at left), an industry veteran with 37 years of home building experience in Southern California, to be his Project Manager. Working with an energy consultant, Wolfe installed PV to help meet Urquhart's environmental goals for Peppertree. WillowCreek was Wolfe's first experience with solar technology.
Why they chose to use solar:
"Our goal was to build a community of homes with a commitment to the environment that provided value for our customers."
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Content updated on 7/12/2007
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