Engineering

Solar Panel Interest Heating Up

Robert Stupka Takes Solar Panels Home

Two years ago, Robert Stupka, a technical lead with our Community Energy practice, moved from Vancouver to Kelowna with his family. He and his wife Camille chose their new home’s location carefully (the Gyro beach area of Kelowna), wanting a place suited to one-car living, then got to work on their personal project—building an energy saving home.

Their motivation? “We are living in an increasingly constrained world,” says Robert. “It’s important to be mindful of our footprint. How else can I be optimistic about the future my son will live in?”

And the result of their hard work? They were able to reduce their heating consumption to 30% less than the average newly built BC home through design, insulation, and achieving one of the most air tight homes in the Okanagan. They were also able to reduce their electricity consumption to 60% less than the average BC home through energy efficient appliances and LED lighting, which enables them to displace 100% of their electricity on an annual basis using solar panels.

SONY DSC

“We were conscious about our decisions from the beginning. We said to ourselves, what can we do here in terms of energy efficiency? Where are the opportunities, how far can we go? We took advantage of rebates that were available and were proactive about our expectations related to how the home was put together.”

The Case for Solar

Robert’s home features a 4.4kW solar system. He believes large level marketplace disruption in terms of solar energy is only a matter of time—with the price of solar equipment falling and electric costs are rising.

“People will eventually pick the cheaper choice and that choice will be solar.”

While Robert admits there is still some hesitation about solar in the private sector, he says there is a lot of new curiosity as well. And in First Nation Communities, interest is huge. In fact, whenever his team at Urban Systems walks into a First Nations community, one of the first things they’re often asked about is using solar electricity.

“People know solar energy is good. There’s a lot of interest in it and even a kind of novelty – it’s fun and visible, right? I wanted to show that it can make economic sense. We track how much energy we are saving over time so we can tell the story of what’s possible and inspire better homes to be built.”

“I’m here to say that yes, you can do this and you’re not crazy…It’s not just about social goodwill or spending money anymore either—it’s something that makes good financial sense.”

Why Solar Makes Sense (And Cents)

  • Electricity prices are on the rise and will continue that trend because the system is very infrastructure intensive and continually needs maintenance unlike commodity energy sources. (In 2013, BC Hydro announced a 28% hike over five years. Over the past decade, Fortis BC electricity rates have increased on average 5% annually.)
  • The price of solar equipment is falling (it has more than halved over the last five years meaning the point of cost effectiveness has been reached).
  • Solar is one of the safest investments possible—the sun always shine tomorrow.
  • Houses that have solar systems have a higher resale value. (A Wall Street Journal article states that even smaller houses have retained around $15k above market value.)
  • VanCity currently offers energy efficiency loans. These are special tailored loans for solar and energy efficiency projects in the home. (www.vancity.com/Loans/TypesOfLoans/HomeEnergyLoan)

The Future Looks Bright

Robert says that his own experience at home has proven to him that a very solid business case exists for installing solar panels in your home. “The world is changing and we can do this,” he says. “What a great opportunity to spend money in a way that creates positive impact. For example I can buy a car for 20 thousand dollars or for 35 thousand dollars, and what am I really getting for that extra 15 thousand? Whereas that’s around the cost to install solar panels in a home, which has such long reaching impact. These systems are pretty ubiquitous in Ontario but rare in BC. I think as electricity prices keep rising that’s changing and I think we can do this.”

Just For Fun

Robert, Camille and Elon
Robert, Camille and newborn Elon (all bundled up)

Robert and his wife recently had a new baby boy, who the couple named Elon in honour of Elon Musk, an engineer inventor and investor who made his fortune with PayPal but decided to then invest his money into disruptive technology such as the electric car, reinventing space travel, and solar city, a company that has a business model to make solar panels ubiquitous in all homes.

When he’s not working he says you’ll often find him backcountry skiing, changing diapers or playing guitar for his son (they have a video of him dancing at two weeks of age, which he never did until hearing his dad play!)

In his own words Robert is “obsessive about current affairs and the news,” and says he feels very strongly about the impact our work can have on communities.

Want more detail on exactly how Robert’s home saves him so much money? Visit here: http://www.brettsichellodesign.com/custom-home-design/stupka-contemporary-home-design.php

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