By Jacob Mathias
A Plover-based company, Solar Nouveau, is bringing solar power into the mainstream with new eye-pleasing, affordable solar systems.
The Deco Daisy, a decorative solar panel in the shape of its namesake, was designed by Madison native Aaron Garret-Schesch who has worked in the solar power market for 11 years.
“I got tired of installing unaesthetic, unappealing, erector set style solar systems that no one in their right mind would display in their front yard” said Garret-Schesch. “I realized that solar would not go mainstream until John and Jane Q. public saw solar as something they could put in their front yard. So, I taught myself how to use 3D modeling software, and came up with the Deco Daisies.”
He calls it functional art.
“Some people have a concern for it,” said Doug Stingle, development director for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. “Aaron’s product is the antithesis of that. It’s a very aesthetically pleasing solar array.”
Stingle said he himself didn’t have a problem with the way a solar array looks on a roof but did understand that people have their own personal preferences and the solar industry is addressing that.
“It opens the market a lot more to people that might be concerned about the way solar looks,” said Stingle. “Or it might even just open it to people that would certainly like a smaller size. It’s for people that aren’t quite ready to make the investment for a whole home size system.”
Garret-Schesch said the daisies are a state-of-the-art 1.5 kilowatt photovoltaic system which will produce about six kilowatts of solar electricity daily.
The daisies will by no means power an entire home, but Garret-Schesch said they will offset some of the traditional grid system electricity.
“I think that the industry made mistakes in the past by trying to sell too much solar to the residential market,” said Garrett-Schesch. “You were looking at $8,000, $12,000 and sometimes $20,000 solar systems that some of these companies were trying to sell people.”
He said those solar systems were a 20-year investment but since many homeowners move after five to 10 years the large solar systems won’t pay off as an investment for most.
“My goal, to quote a phrase that everybody knows, is a chicken in every pot,” he said.
Solar arrays can be installed modularly so those wishing to add more panels to their homes have that ability as their electric or financial situations change.
Stingle said that most consumers are concerned about the cost of adding solar power to their homes and businesses.
“The costs have come down precipitously in the last two to three years. They’re as cheap as they’ve ever been right now,” said Stingle. “When I started working here back in 2007, we talked about installed system costs at $8 to $11 per watt. Today we talk about that in terms of $3 to $5 a watt.”
Deco Daisy systems are installed at a cost of about $3.75 per watt so with a 1.5 kilowatt system, the total cost is around $5600.
The MREA operates several solar power initiatives including the Grow Solar Network which Stingle said works with different cities, utilities and other energy stakeholders to reduce the soft cost of solar power.
“The equipment cost has come down dramatically,” said Stingle. “And the way that people are going to be able to save money on systems is to reduce those soft costs meaning like permitting, inspection and those kind of things that aren’t actual hardware.”
“Maybe a community has never seen a solar permit and they don’t know what to do with it so we work with the those communities so they understand how the permitting process works and work with the inspectors who might come out and inspect the system afterword,” he said.
Stingle said this will reduce the overall cost of a solar power system for consumers.
“People in Central Wisconsin are very interested in solar and are very active in taking a stance to move forward with it,” said Stingle.
Garrett-Schesch and Solar Nouveau will be showing off their wares at the MREA Energy Fair on June 19-21.
Solar Nouveau is also planning to launch a Let It Shine fundraising campaign to provide Deco Daisy powered lighting in inner city parks.
“We’re finalizing the paperwork for the first round of standalone Deco Daisy walkway lights that are going to go in down in Milwaukee,” said Garrett-Schesch. “We’re hopeful that that will get attention and we’ll get more donations from Wisconsin businesses. The center plaque of the Deco Daisy, that pattern that is made by the center squares is a great brandable surface.”
Tom Schrader, Stevens Point Parks and Recreation Director, said that the city had looked at solar power options for the parks but it wasn’t cost effective at the time.
“Usually what it comes down to when it comes to energy stuff is the payback,” said Schrader. “How long would it take to pay it back? Is it a year or two years or 10 years or 20 years?”
Schrader said that some of the lights on park flag poles are solar powered.
For more information visit Solar Nouveau here.