Arizona has plenty of sun and just as great a need for new housing.
With those facts in mind, it may be surprising local homeowners had to wait so long for a development like south Scottsdale’s Array: nine planned town homes where a solar electric system is offered as a standard feature — a first for the Valley.
Construction on Array begins this summer with completion projected for next spring.
“It just makes sense for the environment, for doing the right thing,” Array developer Ed Gorman said.
Salt River Project estimates the nine systems’ clean electricity means about 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide will not being emitted into the atmosphere.
“But that’s altruistic,” Gorman said. “If you don’t have a utility bill or pay very little, that’s personal.”
When combined with Array’s energy-saving features throughout and financial incentives from the state and SRP, Gorman said the solar panels could result in a homeowner needing to budget zero dollars for electricity.
That’s quite a selling point, considering Arizona ranks in the top 20 nationally for the average retail price of energy. Gorman’s company, Modus, specializes in building stylishly modern residences that meet “green” buildings standards. On a tour of a Biltmore-area development, Galleries at Turney, currently under construction, Gorman points out features also planned for Array that will save electricity, resources, the environment and money.
• Floors of stained concrete or limestone, which help regulate temperatures.
• Passive lighting through strategically placed windows, and dimmer switches for lights.
• Energy-efficient appliances that, like the solar systems, come standard.
• Low-water consumption fixtures.
Galleries, expected to be finished in two weeks, is Arizona’s first project to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes certification by the U.S Green Building Council. Array, Gorman hopes, will be given a LEED rating of silver, one notch higher.
“We wanted to take Array to the next level,” Gorman said. “The only way to do that is to create your own energy.”
It was two years ago that Gorman came up with the idea of building solar power directly into a new development, a move he says is far cheaper than retrofitting.
“If (solar) is integrated into a multi-family type development, you can definitely drive down the cost per watt,” said Matt Shannon, a vice president with American Solar Electric, the company providing Modus with the solar technology.
The photovoltaic systems to be installed are 2-kilowatt, and SRP forecasts annual production at Array will be 28,800 kilowatt hours.
During hotter months, the 1,727-square foot residences will be consuming every bit of power produced by the solar panels and SRP will make up the shortfall.
“But this time of year the equation switches,” Shannon said, adding the systems will be sending their surplus power back into SRP’s grid.
Gorman is energy-aware, but he’s also image-aware enough to know architecture based in principles of ecological conservation carries a connotation of “granola” and “hay bales.”
However, he doesn’t want Modus to be pigeonholed as simply a green developer.
“It’s kind of, ‘By the way, we’re green,’” Gorman said. “We didn’t decide to build the most energy-efficient house we can, and then see how cool we could make the architecture. It was, ‘let’s design something that’s really cool, and then make sure it’s energy-efficient.’”
Renewable energy incentives
• Residential Solar and Wind Energy Systems Tax Credit (state): Provides a credit for installing a solar or wind energy device.
• Income Tax Subtraction for Energy Efficient Residences (state): Provides an income tax subtraction to the original owner of a new energy efficient home.
• Sales tax exemption (state): Provides a sales tax exemption for the retail sale of solar energy devices and for installation of solar energy devices by contractors.
• Property tax exemption (state): Applies to solar energy devices for on-site energy consumption.
• Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit (federal): Establishes tax credits for energy efficiency improvements in existing homes and for the purchase of high-efficiency heating, cooling and water-heating equipment.
• Residential Solar and Fuel Cell Tax Credit (federal): Establishes a tax credit for the purchase and installation of solar electric and solar water heating property.
• Residential Energy Conservation Subsidy Exclusion (federal): Energy conservation subsidies provided by public utilities, either directly or indirectly, are nontaxable.
• APS Solar Partners Incentive Program (private): Offers customers who install photovoltaic and solar hot water systems the opportunity to sell the credits associated with the energy generated to Arizona Public Service.
• SRP’s EarthWise Solar Energy Program (private): Provides incentives to customers who purchase photovoltaic or solar water-heating systems.