Going green has become a big, big issue. Scientists have long predicted that “the era of easy oil” is quickly drawing to a close. Homeowners have become more environmentally and energy conscious, choosing to decrease dependence on fuel generated electricity as well as decreasing harmful emissions with the alternative of solar energy. The President’s Advanced Solar Energy Initiative will spend $148 million to make “solar power systems” more competitive by 2015.

CSP Systems, photovoltaics, solar heating, and solar lighting are the most popular forms of solar technology used in homes. CSP Systems use reflective materials along with the sun’s rays to generate heat and electricity. Photovoltaics use semi-conductor material to directly convert sunlight into electricity. Solar heating employs panels to absorb the sun’s energy to heat water and the interior space of residential and commercial buildings. Solar lighting relies on “parabolic” solar collectors to focus light into “a filter optic system” to power interior and exterior lights.Out door pools and ponds can also be heated and operated with the technology.

Ninety percent of homes in the Denver Metro area make use of a “grid-tied system” says Greg Koss owner, of Adobe Solar. The grid provides electricity, heat and light. He says some of the systems have batteries and “others are without.” The most popular grid-tied system runs without a battery, “or back up power source.” They are custom-designed for conversion and construction and connect with Xcel Energy, the electrical provider. During the day your system produces more energy than your home uses and your meter spins backward. The excess power will be used by your neighbors. When the sun goes down your meter will spin forward and. At the end of the calendar year if you have produced a net credit you will receive a check from Xcel for whole sale rate.

Costs for converting to a grid-tie PV system can vary. John Thorton formerly Principle Engineer with Enrel, the National Renewable Energy Lab and Greg Koss estimate the system can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 before rebates and federal tax credits, to between $5000 and $14,000 after deductions. Ideally the system can produce 100 percent of the home’s energy needs and pay for itself within seven to ten years, says Koss. This can cover conservative usage for homes of 940 kilowatt hours of electricity to over 2000 a year.

The outlook for solar energy will continue to improve, says Thornton. He says a substantial decrease in installation costs by 2012 is forthcoming. He has been involved in solar technology since solar panels were used on satellites in the 1950s. The number of home owners choosing the grid-tied PV systems is small but continues to increase in the Denver area. The cost of manufacturing the system is dropping but sales price for the systems are remaining the same or higher because demand is rising. Xcel recently received 350 applicants in Denver who want to convert. The numbers are still small but growing. Koss says he’s seen sales “strengthen” by 300 percent from smaller numbers during the first year. Both feel that Denver’s environmental and energy conscious residential and commercial owners will have an increased need for custom designed systems and will need the expertise of installers to satisfy that need.