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Believing in What You Sell

Believing in What You Sell
altE's Ben Farmer gives us a glimpse into his life in Colorado and tells us about his two Renewable Energy systems.
written by Danielle Shaughnessey

Ben Farmer truly believes in what he sells. He is Sales Manager at altE, but also has two renewable energy systems installed at his home in Evergreen, CO. His home, located right on a sunny mountainside boasts both an 8.8 KW. Ben Farmer truly believes in what he sells. He is Sales Manager at altE, but also has two renewable energy systems installed at his home in Evergreen, CO. His home, located right on a sunny mountainside boasts both an 8.8 KW solar electric system and a solar hot water system.">solar electric system and a solar hot water system.

Ben first became interested in RE back in 2000. "I started hearing about Wind Farms and thought that was just about the coolest thing going," he says. "I also had a lot of dream time on renewable energy and felt it was the wave and health of the future." In April of 2003, Ben decided it was time to get some training and moved to Aspen, CO to become an intern with SEI (Solar Energy International) in nearby Carbondale, CO. In September of 2003, Ben moved to MA and started working at altE.

Ben's first RE project came out of necessity when he relocated back to Colorado in March of 2008. The home he purchased needed a new hot water heater within two weeks of moving in. The area is sunny and ideal for solar. Ben's home is located on a south facing mountainside at 8,000 feet. "I always knew solar hot water was where my money would be spent first,"Ben explains. "Out of need to buy a new water heater, I decided this was the time to take the plunge!" He purchased an AET kit, indirect PV with 80 Gallon Tank & 64 SqFt. Collectors.

Alan Zellar's Solar Air Heater

Ben dove in and started the design of his system. The circulator pump is powered off of two Kyocera 10 watt, 12v nominal panels wired in series to come into the pump at 20 watts/ 24 volts. The panels are ground mounted next to his house. He has an Art-Tec differential temp controller. "The solar hot water system provides about 85% of my household hot water needs and the backup electric element in my storage tank takes care of the rest," Ben says. "The best part is my solar electric system powers the element, so even with the electric backup, it's still powered by the sun." He did the installation himself. His property is sloped, so he built a retaining wall to accommodate the panels. "It was a creative fix to the problem with location," Ben explains. The install was complete by October of 2008 and Ben now enjoys 160 degree hot water!

With his solar hot water system performing well, Ben was ready to start his next project. He began installing his 8.8 KW solar electric system in October of 2009. He started the install in October to take advantage of the $4.50 per watt rebate from Xcel Energy. Ben was feeling a bit pressured as October is the start of winter at 8,000 feet in the Rockies. The system consists of 42 Kyocera 210 GX_LPU panels mounted on a DPW multi-pole mount system. The string sizing is 14 Kyocera 210's in series with three parallel strings going to a combiner box at the array. The system has a Fronius IGPlus 7.5 inverter. Ben did the installation by himself, getting work done on the system whenever possible. "I had to cut the steel pipe in -10F after work one night since I needed to work on my install every minute after my working day to make sure the install would be done on time," Ben recalls. "I'd work nights after work outside in the freezing cold of December. And steel pipe doesn't like to cut quickly in negative numbers." Ben received help during the final portion of his install from a local installer to make sure everything was up to local code.

Alan Zellar's Solar Air Heater

He completed his install on February 1, 2010, one week before his rebate would expire! The system provides all of the home's energy use with an excess of about 2,000 KWH to date. "Our entire home is run by the sun with energy to spare going back into the utility grid for others to use," Ben says. He can now proudly say that his home is entirely run on solar power!

Ben feels satisfied with all of this hard work. "I no longer have an electric, water or heating bill. I'd say I'm doing pretty good," he says proudly. And he's not done yet. Next, Ben wants to install an outdoor solar lighting set up around his dog fence to ward of mountain lions. He also has plans to convert the floor in his basement to tile with radiant floor solar heating.

To view more pictures of Ben's systems, click here.

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