A standardized deployment of solar electric systems in the Colorado production home market is crucial to the success of the renewable portfolio standard recently adopted by Colorado voters. This research uses the Built Green® program as a context for investigating energy conservation measures (ECMs), viable within the production home market, for their efficacy in curtailing new home annual energy consumption and peak electrical demand loads. The research examines the cost effectiveness and impact of residential solar systems compared to the energy conservation measures. Colorado is a state with good solar resources and considerable production-scale residential development. However, most production homes built in the state today are not highly energy efficient. It is generally believed that improvements to energy efficiency — more insulation, better windows, more efficient appliances — are more cost-effective than solar production systems given current costs. In other words, most production homes in Colorado are not ready to don a solar home system (SHS). The analysis uses extensive energy simulation to determine energy savings of selected energy-saving home features relative to the baseline Building America Benchmark for Denver, CO. This optimization process seeks to identify the least-cost combinations of improvements, assuming present day component costs, with the greatest annual energy savings, with the ultimate goal of implementing solar energy in the Colorado production home market. The results of the analysis suggest that optimal characteristics of production home, designed to minimize total costs, are readily achievable in today’s market. Moreover, when these optimal ECMs are implemented, the marginal cost of a SHS is found to be less than additional energy efficiency. With further energy efficiency improvements, site-based solar electric systems can compete economically given current state and federal incentive programs. The results also indicate that a solar system oriented west of due south can offer significant reductions in peak demand relative to both the household and utility load profiles.

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