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Monday, September 14, 2009

Milwaukee-area builder & We energies to make solar electricity more affordable

From a news release issued by Tim O'Brien Homes:

Tim O’Brien Homes teams up with We Energies to build twelve solar homes as part of regional study on energy conservation.

Waukesha, WI (September 11, 2009) – Tim O’Brien Homes, a certified Green Built™ and Wisconsin ENERGY STAR® home builder, announces a partnership with We Energies to build twelve solar electric homes across southeastern Wisconsin by spring 2010. This endeavor is part of a multi-year study that We Energies is conducting to evaluate homeowners’ lifestyle habits in response to utilizing solar energy.

Along with analyzing trends in energy usage and demonstrating the impact of using solar energy, the study will also provide insight on how solar may influence market value and overall electric demand. This is the first time that a solar electricity study of this magnitude has ever been done in the Midwest.

“Our relationship with We Energies provides us the opportunity to outfit more homes with solar electric power,” says Tim O’Brien, president of Tim O’Brien Homes. “We are thrilled to be part of this cutting-edge initiative that’s opening the door to solar electric energy as a practical and reliable power option to home builders and owners. Given our green building philosophy, it’s a natural progression for Tim O’Brien Homes to move toward solar installations. As we see more opportunities for renewable energy applications, we’re discovering they offer a significant long- term return on investment.”

The study is being conducted by the We Energies Renewable Energy Development (RED) Program and will examine the solar energy production of the twelve homes along with homeowners' consumption. “We are pleased to partner with a home builder that has a solid understanding of solar energy, its applications and potential benefits,” says Jessica Thibodo-Johnson, renewable energy specialist for We Energies. “Our partnership focuses on demonstrating the practical and beneficial use of solar energy for Midwest homes. This unique project will also provide greater insight into possible effects solar installations have on housing market values,” adds Thibodo-Johnson.

Solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) power is a form of renewable energy that uses the sun’s energy to create electricity. These systems are made up of panels or modules containing PV cells that generate direct current (DC) electricity when exposed to sunlight. An inverter then converts the DC power to the alternating current (AC) electricity utilized to power the home.

The solar homes will be studied side by side with twelve equivalent size control homes. Having similar orientation to the sun, the control homes are located in the same neighborhoods as the solar homes. Four of the twelve solar homes are currently under construction or nearing completion, with solar panels being installed by Renewable Energy Solutions. The homes, ranging in size from 2,000 to 2,400 square feet, are being built in neighborhoods such as Jackson’s Sherman Parc, Milwaukee’s Oak Hill, Waukesha’s Rolling Ridge South, and Kenosha’s Leona’s Rolling Meadows. “Most of the solar homes will be for sale at a price point just under $300,000. This provides an opportunity to introduce solar energy to interested consumers that previously would not have been able to afford it,” adds O’Brien.

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