Tyler Jacobs, YVSC Intern | July 26, 2023

Hi, my name is Tyler Jacobs. I’m an intern this summer at Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. My project works with home energy efficiency. As a part of YVSC’s Energy Priority Area we administer home and commercial energy assessments to help home and business owners learn where they might be able to improve energy efficiency to save on bills and reduce emissions. Through these assessments, we use thermal cameras and other tools to find where energy is being wasted. For example, unsealed windows and doors lose a greater amount of heat than sealed ones do. This means that during the winter, you would be paying much more for electricity to heat your home with unsealed windows and doors.

This summer, I have been reaching back out to folks that have had the assessment to learn about what retrofits they have made since their assessments. Common retrofits our clients have made are resealing windows, installing weatherstripping, and replacing water heaters.    Another aspect of my project was to identify the different barriers homeowners had to making retrofits. In this blog, I wanted to talk about solar in Routt County. This is a great way for homeowners to use sustainable energy and save money. 

First off, what is solar? Solar, put simply, is the energy that we capture from the sun. Photovoltaic solar panels are used to convert this solar radiation from the sun into the electricity that can be used in our homes, businesses, and facilities. This technology has been around since 1883 when Charles Fritts created the first solar cell. Since then, technology and research have only improved. In 2009, researchers found the use of perovskite materials in the solar cell captured a broader spectrum of light. A broader spectrum means higher efficiency. Also, over the years, solar has become more affordable. According to CNET, the cost of home solar has dropped 64% in the last decade as hardware for it is becoming cheaper. Some of the findings of the research include the efficiency at elevation and with temperature. The solar panels work better at lower temperatures and higher altitudes. Luckily for us here in Routt County, we have both.

Here in the county, we have many different opportunities to utilize solar energy. Homeowners can participate in the Yampa Valley Electric Association’s community solar array. Community solar is an array of solar that is produced away from the home. Typically this array will power multiple homes. With the community array, your bill can be offset by the extra energy your allotment produces. Another option is having solar panels installed on your roof. This type of solar, while expensive initially, typically pays for itself in only 6-10 years. Compared to other renewable energy sources available, solar is one of the most affordable and reliable for us here in Routt.

For our environment, solar has many advantages. Most of all, solar energy production does not use fossil fuels and doesn’t produce greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide aside from what is used and produced in the manufacturing of panels. Energy production today is still heavily dependent on the burning of coal. This is also the case here in Routt County. If we can make the transition to solar, we can keep our county beautiful.