Green Built Mall

I’m working on a bigger story about Longmont Power’s solar rebate offer ( Times-Call story here) and the May 12th Twin Peaks Mall Area Public Meeting ( Times-Call story here) , but wanted to do a quick take on a combination of these two stories.

I’ve written in the past about my research into alternative energy, specifically solar for water heating and electricity generation here and here. And some of my opinions of the Twin Peaks Mall and its future here and here. Much more on all of that later, and a more in depth report of the above mentioned meeting with some quotes from citizens as well.

But I did want to address one comment about building the mall ‘green’. I’m all for conservation and I’ve been walking that walk (another link here) for some time now. But I’m also aware of bottom lines. So, knowing Panattoni is a fairly regular reader of my pearls of wisdom, I asked them about this specifically.

For you that aren’t aware, Longmont Power does a fairly decent job of delivering electricity at a somewhat reasonable rate, comparatively speaking. Don’t mistake me for a cheerleader for them; I’m not happy that they don’t offer the same incentives and rebates that Xcel offers to people outside the City of Longmont, which is substantial. But from a business point of view, since Longmont makes electricity reasonable, it just doesn’t pay to shell out the considerable expense for solar panels on top of the mall.

I sort of knew that answer before I asked, but asked anyway. They pointed out there are parts of the nation, the Northeast for example, that offer to erect panels galore for basically nothing to help ease some of the demand put on the grid. That’s a no brainer. But in Longmont’s case, it’s tougher to justify. And the ” feel good” factor, well, doesn’t really factor in much.

So, until the price point and efficiency of solar panels improves, and the incentives get a little sweeter (for businesses and consumers), it’s pretty slim that part of the mall will be green. Even with the price of oil as it stands today, although from what I’ve been told we’re mostly coal powered here anyway.

We all shine on(?)

In the August 14 Times-Call there was an article titled “Let it shine” about the recently installed solar power system at the Boulder County Courthouse. This is the photovoltaic variety that turns sunlight into electricity, not the kind used for hot water heaters that heats up a fluid that in turn heats the tank. I’ve looked into both types and found them fairly expensive and would lead to a lot of panels on my roof. Something I’m sure my homeowners association would look sideways at.

This system in Boulder cost $83,500 for 46 panels, that’s a lot of panels, but that’s not really a bad price. The article said this array could provide power for 5 2,000 square foot homes. Well, that seems like a stretch. Extrapolating what they paid, that means I could power my home for $16,700, from my own past research I can tell you that number is a little low. No, a lot low. Triple it and you’re getting warm.

The possibility of a backwards running electrical meter is enticing, but the payback usually takes several years. To make it a little more bearable, Xcel Energy provides rebates for up to half of the cost, that’s huge. Ahh, but here’s the rub: If you live in Longmont, forget about that rebate. When looking into this I spoke to both Xcel and Longmont Power, they both verified Longmont residents who get power from Longmont Power are not eligible for this great deal. Yet the City of Boulder is?

I think what Boulder did was great with a pretty sweet incentive from Xcel. I hope this, and the Times-Call article, bring attention to this policy in Longmont and the city makes this energy saving technology more attractive to its residents. Now, are these two companies who installed this (Namaste Solar and Independent Power Systems) going to match that price (extrapolated of course for home size) for us non-government entities?