With the sun making itself known again, I was sad to discover a flowering plant by my east-facing window hanging down, looking like a goner this morning. Luckily, it recovered with a cold drink of water. But it got me thinking of what lies ahead. My unit on the seventh floor has no shade. Most sunny spring and summer mornings, my east-facing windows and outside deck become a big sizzling frying pan.
Unfortunately, my building is a poster child for the Reagan '80s. It went up fast and furious without any regard for energy efficiency. The building heats up like a brick oven each day, and the solar energy it holds could heat water for dozens of residents if the technology were installed. But, getting buy-in among residents for green-retro-fitting a 25-year-old building is mostly a thankless task. For one thing, solar panels plopped on top of older construction are not always a pretty sight. Plus, old and new electrical connections don't always play well. Retrofitting can be spendy, and with so many other age-related repairs needed, it ain't gonna happen.
Thus, the ideal way to benefit from Salt Lake City's 230 days of sunshine is to have solar photovoltaic systems built into new construction and make them part of a home's purchase price. Until recently, such innovation could usually only be seen on high-end places like those on the Parade of Homes tours.
Echo is similar to regular PV systems that capture sunlight and convert it into electricity, but Echo claims to do a more efficient job of capturing the heat and thermal energy that come with the sunlight, capturing up to 50 percent of the sun's energy versus about 15 percent from most basic solar PV systems.
The Daybreak and Garbett people are chomping at the bit to show off their new homes to U.S. Department of Energy folks and other bigwigs in town for the invitation-only Solar America Cities Conference April 13-16. If you're well-connected, you might even have an invite to hobnob with the Green Elite at Daybreak on April 15.
But if not, take a weekend drive and check out Garbett's Solaris homes yourself (models are available at 10258 S. Sacramento Way in South Jordan) to see if this is something to get behind. Yes, Daybreak is a ways out there. And the costs to commute might offset any home-energy savings from the solar panels. But regardless, built-in solar PV is a step in the right direction and might spur other developers to step up to the plate.