My cohousing HOA community is getting rooftop solar — finally!

Sopris solar worker on garage roof
A Sopris Solar worker installs a racking system on one of our garage blocks at Highline Crossing Cohousing Community on Thurs., June 11, 2020. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
blog logoPrecisely 10 years ago to this month, REC Solar workers were on the rooftop of my Aurora, Colo. home installing a 5.5 kW solar system that is still there. The system outlasted me — or, at least my marriage — and is still pumping out clean, green electricity for the residents who bought the home from me and my now ex-wife in November of 2015.

Since then, I have been pining to get solar again, and plug back into solar-charged driving.

For two years, post-divorce, I rented an apartment near the University of Denver where I work. I had no solar there to charge my 2014 Nissan LEAF, which I leased for three years before moving into a lease of a 2017 Chevy Bolt, and, after that, another lease of a 2020 Chevy Bolt. But I did pay extra for Xcel Windsource electricity so that I could say that my EV was at least indirectly charged by renewable energy generated electricity.

In July of 2017, I bought a townhome in a cohousing community — a cohousing community is more deliberately focused on creating community than an average American community — called Highline Crossing Cohousing Community.

Within a few months of moving in, I set about working toward persuading my community, made up of about 40 households, to install solar to cover the electric use in our garages and in our community house, which we call “The Common House.”

It took 18 months, due to a variety of reasons, most notably, our unusual “democratic” process which requires that no more than three out of 40 households oppose a community measure or that measure will not pass, but, in spring of 2019, we signed a contract with Sopris Solar, a small, local solar company that, at the time, had outstanding online reviews from Google, Yelp, and other sites.

Within a month of us signing the contract, Sopris encountered a series of issues/problems that saw, among other things, the sales guy who was the primary reason we selected Sopris to install a 20 kW system on our garage roofs and community center, leave Sopris ๐Ÿ˜’.

A Sopris Solar worker pulls up a solar racking rail up onto the roof of our “Common House” at Highline Crossing Community Cohousing. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
At several points, including in the fall of 2019 when a TV-news investigative piece aired on a Colorado Springs TV station about Sopris, I thought, for sure, I/we were toast in terms of ever getting solar here at Highline Crossing and that we would lose the substantial sum of money that we had put down as a deposit on the installation and to buy materials for the installation.

It was very depressing, frankly ๐Ÿ˜”.

I am a LONG-time and STRONG solar advocate, and pretty well-informed about solar. Yet, somehow, it seemed that I, along with our Highline Crossing Cohousing Task Force, had picked the wrong company to install solar at Highline Crossing.

In fact, I had originally wanted to go to a larger, highly-respected and veteran company, Namaste Solar, but Namaste told me outright “No, we will not come back to Highline Crossing.”

This was based on 2011 — six years before I moved to Highline Crossing when a meandering process saw Namaste go deeply down the road toward a possible solar installation at Highline Crossing before our “unique” (that is the positive way of putting it) “democratic” process of cohousing decision making derailed solar at HCC.

Two other bigger, more-established solar companies we on the HCC Task Force took a look at in Winter 2018 also did not want to wait for up to 18 months for our super long, dragged out approval process. So, we went with Sopris, a much smaller company, that was willing to wait and, again, at the time in Spring 2019, had five years worth of outstanding customer reviews.

In any case, after a FULL YEAR of waiting – and me thinking we would never see solar go up at Highline Crossing — Sopris appears to have turned things around, at least for us our and our individual case — I cannot, and will not, speak to others’ experiences with Sopris Solar in this blog entry, though perhaps I shall do so in a future one.

Driving on Sunshine will very soon be a reality again for me, after a five-year, post-divorce, break! And I will have populated the world with two separate solar installations across the past 10 years, a 5.5 kW system, and a 20 kW system with, hopefully, at least one more to come!

Thankfully — I am SO thankful! — Sopris just began installing a 20 kW system at HCC two days ago on June 10, 2020 that will see solar panels go up both on one of our garage blocks and on our community house, and which will provide 120% of our electricity use in our community house and garages, including the electricity that I use to drive my 2020 Chevy Bolt!

This is SUPER exciting for me!

I will finally be able to say I am driving a solar-charged EV again, FINALLY! I truly want to let out a primal scream of joy after how long it has taken!

For the past three years, I have been paying extra for Xcel Windsource here at HCC as I did at my apartment in Denver following the sale of my solar home post-divorce. However, my garage here at HCC is NOT attached to my townhome — separating garages from townhomes is deliberate here at HCC so as to encourage more interaction among community members.

Our garages are on a separate community meter and, therefore, the Xcel Windsource electricity I am using in my home is NOT linked to my EV charging, and, so, yes, for the past three years, regular Xcel electricity — in 2019, Xcel Colorado had a grid mix of 30% renewables, 30% natural gas and 40% coal — has been fueling my Chevy Bolt.

But. Not. For. Much. Longer :-). Soon, I will be back to 100% solar-charged driving ๐Ÿ™‚

Beyond me FINALLY being able to plug back into solar-charged driving AND make my vanity plate of “SOLPWRD” tryly accurate again, I/we at Highline Crossing Cohousing will be doing the right thing and powering our Common House and our garages — one other homeowner here also has an EV, a 2018 Nissan LEAF — with locally generated, clean, green, efficient, and affordable solar energy!

I can’t wait!

And I am excited to be publishing a photo gallery chronicling the entire installation of the 20 kW of solar here at Highline Crossing on SolarChargedDriving.Com very soon!

Driving on Sunshine will soon be a reality again for me, after a five-year, post-divorce, break! And I will have populated the world with two separate solar installations across the past 10 years, a 5.5 kW system, and a 20 kW system with, hopefully, at least one more system to come!

My 2017 Chevy Bolt parked in front of the Pacific Ocean at sunset after successfully completing a 1,200-mile journal from Denver, Colo. to Santa Barbara, Calif.

Next up for me, is, I hope, my own townhome’s rooftop. Once Sopris has installed the solar on the HCC Common House and garages and I/we are online with solar again I plan to start working to get my own individual solar system PLUS home storage battery for my town home.

Along the way, I hope to persuade some of my neighbors to do the same on their own individual rooftops — I started with the community house and garage rooftops because I wanted to focus on community first, and on me, second.

Hopefully, getting a small 2.7 kW system on my own roof with a battery pack won’t be as arduous a process as the previous process for getting the community to invest in a 20 kW community system was.

It shouldn’t be: I do not have to get approval of the entire 40-unit community to get my own solar, which I will be paying for out of my own pocket, in contrast to the Sopris installed system, which was paid for via our HOA long-term reserve cash funds.

But, of course, you never know what roadblocks might pop up, as they have this time.

Obviously, I, and my fellow Solar Task Force members here at HCC, are pretty darn stubborn, though: I/we do not give up on solar easily. So, even if I do hit some roadblocks again, expect me to prevail eventually ๐Ÿ˜‰.

I can’t wait for our 20 kW system to be online here, my Bolt to be solar-charged again, and for a solar + home battery system to be attached to my townhome here at HCC.

I really feel like it is my mission to actively populate the world with as much solar as I can before — well, you know — I, like we all eventually do, end up at the end of my own personal life flame some 30-to-40-odd years down the road.

Happy solar-ing to all!

Sopris Solar workers begin installation of a 20 kW solar system on the roof of our Highline Crossing Cohousing Community Common House. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]