At the end of Day 2, the racking system is up on the east side of my condo. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

After 18 months of HOA process work, I’m finally going solar in Littleton, Colo.

Adam and Griffin of ARE Solar work on the west side of my condo as the sun, and trees, frame them. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
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After nearly 18 months of working to get approval from my two HOAs,  I am finally going solar here at Highline Crossing Cohousing in Littleton, Colo. ARE Solar began installing a 6 kW system on my condo roof yesterday. ARE Solar should be finished by Tuesday.

It’s exciting, especially since it is the second “solar victory” for me — and for other neighbors who support solar here at Highline Crossing Cohousing: Two years ago, following about 18 months of work on my part and the work of several other neighbors, Highline Crossing added 10.3 kW of solar to its so-called “Common House” (Community Center) and 9.3 kW of solar to our community shared garages where I plug in, and solar-charge, my 2020 Chevy Bolt, along with two other residents who solar-charge their first generation Nissan LEAFs in our “solar garages.”

So far, in about 18 months of producing solar electricity via those 10.3 kW and 9.3 kW systems, we have produced 5,000 more kWh than we have used in our “Common House” and about 3,000 kWh more than we have used in our community garages. Both of those systems were paid for with community funds.

This time around, I am paying for my own, individual unit system. Another neighbor at Highline Crossing is about to go solar with ARE Solar as well.

A big reason it took so long to get HOA approval this time around for my individually paid for 6 kW solar system, which, after the Federal Tax Credit will cost me about $15,000, is because the system needs to be placed on a so-called “shared common element”, meaning the roof above my condo does not belong to me: It belongs to the community.

Another reason it took so long is because our cohousing community requires a “consensus based process” rather than a straight up, or down, vote on questions such as whether to allow installation of solar systems on our shared rooftops. Basically, everything takes a long(er) time in cohousing, which is deliberately more community focused, and based, than in a traditional HOA.

In fact, community, and knowing one’s neighbors, was a big reason I chose to live here.

Little did I know when I moved in in August 2017 that getting solar up here would take 18 months each time 😜. But now that I have succeeded in my solar quest here, although I am tired, I am happy.

The ARE Solar van — with a 10.3 kW solar system that is on our Highline Crossing Cohousing roof that was installed in 2020, in the background. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

100% fossil fuel free
I want to go 100% fossil fuel free in my condo, at least when you calculate this with solar offset factored into the equation. “Solar offset” = when you produce more electricity than you use at certain times in real time and/or across a long period of time and you “count” that solar electricity that your home rooftop solar system has “over” produced against the total electricity that you have used in a day, week, month, year, etc.

My benchmark will be the yearly benchmark. This means that across 12 months I want to produce as much electricity as I use AND run everything in my condo off of electricity and eliminate any direct natural gas use altogether — (there will be indirect natural gas use because I will be drawing from the electric grid at night, on winter days, etc. and Xcel Energy’s grid mix is currently 33% renewables, 33% natural gas, 33% coal).

Differently put, my aim is to produce exactly as much electricity as I use in my condo, including the electricity to heat it in the winter. Winter electric heat is going to be, far and away, the biggest electricity “suck” for me.

I will be using Envi convection electric wall heaters. Heating with six Envi heaters is probably not nearly as efficient as heating with an electric heat pump based furnace. But, after taking out a $17,000 loan to pay for the 6.0 kW solar system, I am in no position to shell out another $8,000 to $12,000 to replace my forced hot air gas furnace with an electric heat pump.

Some day, perhaps. In the meantime, I am going to be “low-teching” it to achieve 100% electrification in my Littleton, Colo. condo:

Griffin (below) and Sam (above) set up the ladder. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
  • In addition to using six Envi heaters (which I move around to cut down on the number I need) to heat with electricity, not gas, in the winter, I’ll be using induction hot plates and an air fryer to replace my gas stove and oven. I cannot replace my gas stove and oven with an electric one, unfortunately, because it would cost thousands to do so. This is due to the fact that the current gas stove and oven does not have 240V wiring anywhere near it. In fact, the only 240V wiring is in the basement, very far away from the gas stove — right next to to my condo’s electric box where my electric dryer is located. An electrician said it would cost me $1,500 just to wire my condo to get 240V conduit from my electric box to my stove/oven spot in the kitchen. A new range would then cost me about $1,000 more on top of that!
  • I also plan to replace my gas hot water heater with an electric heat pump in two to three years, or earlier if I can afford it, though it is unlikely I will be able to afford to do that earlier.
  • I’d also like to add a Tesla Powerwall or two to my entire set-up. This, so that I can know that, for about six to eight months a year — May-October — when I use only about three to seven kWh worth of electricity per day, I could be running on very close to 100% of the electricity produced by my 6 kW system and stored in Tesla Powerwalls. My 6 kW system is predicted to create about 6,800 kWh of electricity a year.

Cannot wait to ditch fossil fuels
I seriously cannot wait to get off of fossil fuels, once and for all, here at Highline Crossing Cohousing. The burning of fossil fuels is destroying the planet and the health of all living beings on earth right now. We are very fortunate to have an alternative in renewable energy: We need to jump to that ASAP in order to save at least some of the quality of life that we have right now.

The ARE Solar team consults on the installation on Day 2 of the installation. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

What I am doing here at 1644 W. Canal Court in Littleton, Colo. and at Highline Crossing Cohousing more generally is a tiny blip and, honestly, it often it feels like a hopeless effort, too: It feels like far too little and far too late as the Climate Emergency has already reached truly scary and depressing levels — the Climate Emergency sparked the massive Marshall Fire just 30 miles from here on Denver’s plains burning 1,000 homes in neighborhoods just like the one I live in here in Littleton. However, even though it feels like far too little, too late, the solar I am adding now, and have added to the community in the past, is what I am able to do, for now. Individuals are, in the end, relatively powerless to make the big, meaningful, macro-change that is so desperately needed.

I truly wish I could do so much more, and that far more people would do what I am doing, though I recognize with insufficient political and government support and investment via tax breaks and subsidies for home solar, electrification, etc., many people are not going to do what I am.

That noted, if more of us would do what I am doing, we could do a lot more to reduce the rapid pace of, and intensification of, the Climate Emergency that is quickly destroying the fragile — and amazing — biosphere that both enables all life on earth and protects that life from the brutal radiation vacuum that is outer space.