Tucked in the Rocky Mountains at 8,236 feet above sea level, Scott Franklin’s home occupies an idyllic spot in small-town Nederland, Colorado. Like some homes, its site is far from ideal for accommodating a roof-mounted solar installation. The house’s solar access was limited by a northwest-southeast roofline and blocked by neighbors’ trees. By building a detached office with an east-west orientation two years ago, Franklin created room for a 1.4 KW system.
Wanting to offset more of his family’s household electricity consumption, Franklin explored other options. Knowing that a roof-mounted system on the home would be ineffective and a ground-mounted system would eat into the children’s play area, he looked for a novel way to integrate an additional PV system.
“We’d lived in our home for six years and barely used our back, south-facing deck. We couldn’t sit out there on a sunny day because it was either too bright or too hot,” Franklin says. “An awning seemed like a natural solution for both problems.”
So last spring, Franklin and the Lighthousesolar crew installed the company’s first-built Power Awning—a custom-welded, 10- by 21-foot steel frame that incorporates fourteen 190 W bifacial modules—over the existing deck. The crew crafted the steel frame in the workshop and assembled the awning at the home over three days.
The picnic table beneath the awning has become the Franklins’ favorite spot for both morning coffee and evening barbecues. During the mountain winters, some sunlight can pass through the array, preventing the dark, cold shadow created by a conventional awning and bringing some light into the home’s interior.
Although the dark deck planks limit how much light is reflected to the underside of the array, the energy production of the awning’s bifacial panels has exceeded Franklin’s original expectations. On clear summer days, the net production from the Power Awning and the small roof-mounted system on the office is enough to spin the utility meter backward.
“The nicest thing is that the awning created a usable space for the family. Now we can sit out there and enjoy the view of the mountains,” Franklin says. “The added bonus is that our electric bill made it down to zero.”
The Power Awning cost about the same as a ground-mounted system but saved the crew from the time-consuming and backbreaking work of drilling through solid granite and running cables hundreds of feet to the inverter. A similarly sized roof-mounted system would have cost about 30% less than the Power Awning. The increased energy production of the bifacial modules helps to offset a portion of the higher cost. After federal and state rebates, the 2.66 KW awning system cost about $14,000.