Solar Savings for Community Housing Project

Solar systems integrator EcoEnergies recently completed a solar electric system for the Tierra Encantada affordable housing project in San Jose, California. And even as its first solar project with Community Housing Developers (CHD) is coming to fruition, a second solar system for another CHD project is under development.

California State Treasurer Phil Angelides joined San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, CHD President Ron Morgan and other dignitaries, cutting the ribbon at dedication ceremonies for the San Jose Tierra Encatada affordable housing project. The 93-unit project, developed by CHD, uses a fraction of the electrical requirements of a typical project. CHD worked with solar systems integrator EcoEnergies to design and develop a solar photovoltaic (PV) system that provides almost 30 kW of power for the project, and cuts atmospheric emissions of CO2 by almost 300 tons over the first 25 years of operation. “Once you’ve seen the benefits of one solar power system, you realize that you’ll need one for all your projects,” said CHD’s Director of New Development, Bonnie Bamburg, who spearheaded many of the project’s energy efficiency and renewable energy features. “We’re using the sun’s power and a mixture of leading-edge efficiency measures to slash our operating costs.” In 2003, only two other development projects in Santa Clara County achieved similar low levels of energy usage, according to Bamburg. The 28.4 kW solar electric system consists of 204 solar panels provided by RWE Schott Solar, and one Xantrex 30 kW inverter. “Solar electric systems are ideally suited for affordable housing projects”, said Peter Carrie, EcoEnergies’ President. “Solar power reduces or eliminates the need for electricity from the local utility. This in turn helps the facility qualify for ‘Title 24’ allowances, which include project financing benefits and increased state subsidies for the solar system.” CHD’s Project Manager Bill Zavarlis worked closely with EcoEnergies to bring the solar system to fruition. To help blend with the development’s architectural styling, the low-profile solar system was mounted on three different roof areas, making it practically invisible from the ground. “We’ve discovered that the synergy between solar power’s electricity savings and various financial benefits makes solar power a ‘must’ for our projects,” Bamburg said. “We’ve combined solar power with extra insulation, ‘Low-E’ coated windows, energy star appliances, and efficient heating and cooling systems to achieve the lowest possible operating cost. The results are so good that we’re well along the way to constructing our second solar power system on another project, working again with EcoEnergies.”
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