Large-scale solar project goes on line
FRISCO The ugliest building on Main Street here received a makeover with the towns first commercial solar project, despite a bruising bureaucratic battle.Longtime Summit County developer Rob Philippe installed a 10-kilowatt solar-electric system at his Business 101 building at 101 West Main St., providing his growing collection of small-business tenants with green power.Installed by Vail-based Grid Feeders, the towns first commercial solar system now is fully operational. The panels will satisfy approximately 35 percent of the buildings electric demand and will sell excess electricity back to Xcel Energy. Phillippe has made significant interior changes since purchasing the property in 2007. He turned two vacant medical suites into executive suites with high-end finishes that share two professional conference rooms, a kitchen and other amenities.His tenants include Denver and Colorado Springs-based businesses that need satellite offices in the county and smaller businesses that otherwise operated out of private residences. The remodel has added 15 new businesses to Main Street, Philippe said.Were giving people a legitimate professional atmosphere and a Main Street address, Philippe said.The property, which Philippe purchased because it was the ugliest building on Main Street is a failed solar design from 1979. Skylights cover almost the entire south-facing roofline, which actually produced too much passive solar heat, causing tenants to run air conditioning almost year-round.Were slowly making incremental changes until we get optimal performance, Philippe said.
The solar array cost approximately $80,000 to install, but an Xcel subsidy (paid immediately upon installation completion) covered $45,000, and a 30 percent federal tax credit applies to the remaining $35,000. These incentives mean the 10-kilowatt array will pay for itself in just eight to nine years, and it is warranted for 20 years.Philippe called the decision a virtual no-brainer.How can you afford not to? We were willing to commit money to this building, but $35,000 versus $85,000 is a big difference, Philippe said. Philippe would like to see the federal tax credit extended, which is due to expire at the end of the year, and he also wants to ease the path for others.Were the first people to do this in Frisco. We didnt get a good reaction from Summit County building department, Philippe said.The department formulated new rules and added criterium during the certification process that added 10 percent to the installation price, Philippe said. Luckily, Grid Feeders picked up that extra cost.They made it harder than any other county. Im a professional developer. Ill take the beating, Philippe said. Theyve got to make a smoother process. The vast majority (of people going solar) will be individual homeowners who dont have the time and contacts to negotiate this process.Philippe even had to e-mail Xcel Energys chairman of the board to get an electrical transformer installed. It was installed the next day.Could an individual do that? Philippe asked. Fred Pope, the CEO of Satcom Resources the parent company of Grid Feeders said the process wasnt much different than in other counties. The 10-percent increase was likely related to the cost of rising prices around the world Pope said.We had to abide by their standards and, its no big thing, Pope said. You just have to dot all your Is and cross all your Ts.Officials at the Summit County building department were unable to comment because the staff member who handles solar certification area was out of town this week.Daily News staff writer Jonathan Batuello contributed to this story
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