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Homeowner giving electricity back

John Gardner
Special to the DailyDoug and Lynne DeNio's home in New Castle has nine solar panels on its roof.
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NEW CASTLE ” Doug DeNio and his wife, Lynne, love soaking up the sun ” their new home in New Castle is equipped with a 1,500-watt photovoltaic array solar-panel system.

A photovoltaic what?

It’s a solar energy system that provides about 95 percent of the house’s energy, said Doug DeNio, a retired National Park Service engineer.

“I think it will meet all of our electrical needs real well,” he said. “As the days get shorter the amount of energy the system produces will go down, but we’re living just like we normally have.”

The unused power produced feeds into Xcel’s power distribution lines and is redistributed to other houses in the community. During this process, the house’s power meter spins in reverse, saving the DeNios money on their monthly bill.

“We’ve had calls from people in the area who are interested,” DeNio said. Even though none of their neighbors have installed solar systems on their houses yet, DeNio hopes that things will change for Garfield County.

“I just think that we need to be more energy efficient and use less natural resources,” he said.

At night, the house operates as a normal residence, using electricity provided by Xcel Energy.

Here how it works: Energy from the sun is converted from direct current into alternating current electricity by a converter, attached to the panels on the roof of the house. The array consists of nine, 167-watt panels, measuring 10-by-14 feet.

The system was created by Sun Electric Systems in Lafayette, which has offices around the state, including one in Carbondale.

DeNio worked with the company’s president, Jim Welch Welch, on several solar energy projects for the U.S. Forest Service and one project in Suriname, South America, back in the 1980s, for an organization called Conservation International.

“It’ll take a couple of years to get an accurate figure on how much power we are using,” DeNio said. He estimates his monthly usage will be between 300 and 500 kilowatts, about half of what they used before installing the system.

Ken Olson, project engineer for Sun Electric Systems in Carbondale, said that sales of the systems have jumped, and the company has installed six systems in the last six months.

“It’s on an upward growth curve,” Olson said. “Especially since the state passed the incentives we’ve seen an increase in workload specifically in the residential market.”

DeNio doesn’t know exactly how long it will take for the system will pay itself off, so to speak, but guesses that it will take about 5 years depending on the price of electricity. The system has applied 226 kilowatts back into the grid since its hookup on June 26 of this year.


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