Kingman resident uses creative energy and sweat equity to create unique energy sources

Mohave County planner Kevin Davidson is one of few people in Kingman constantly using the sun.

Davidson became interested in renewable energy about a year ago and attended the Southwest Renewable Energy Conference in Flagstaff last August.

"The first thing I did after attending the conference was to install two dozen compact fluorescent lights in the bathroom, recessed ceiling lights, table and floor lamps," Davidson said.

"This is actually the easiest and most cost-effective way to save energy."

He also opted to install a "grid-connected" system as a way to create "distributed generation" (power from multiple sites, including solar panels, creating minimal environmental impact).

Because the 10 solar panels with more than 700 power cells would need a support system on top of his roof, he put his background as an architectural draftsman to use.

Davidson, who bought the house brand new three years ago, said once he decided to install the solar system the process went quickly.

"I knew the nature of what I was working with," he said.

On March 15, he put sweat and know-how to work as he measured, marked, cut, drilled, primed and painted redwood 2-by-4s upon which the grid would rest.

Next he primed and painted the joist hangers and gusset angles, attached joist hangers to the two ledgers, mounted the ledgers on the parapet and assembled and mounted the ladders on which the panels would rest.

Attaching interim 2-by-4s to "tie it all together" completed the project.

Just nine days after beginning the project he called the city of Kingman for a building inspection.

Meanwhile he primed, painted and attached 20 solar module mounting brackets and called Sun*Amp to set up a time to install the system.

It was installed April 3, the city inspected and approved it on April 7 and Citizens Arizona Electric inspected system on April 18.

"All I need now is a new meter," Davidson said.

The system, without batteries, cost approximately $7 per watt, installed.

The contractor charged Davidson $10,755 to install 10 150-watt modules, an inverter, mounting brackets and a meter box.

The Arizona Department of Revenue offers up a $1,000 tax credit for alternative energy installation.

Each of the 10 solar panels - containing 72 solar cells the size of a fist that each generate 2.1 watts - work continuously to generate power from the sunlight.

Davidson figures the system should produce nearly three megawatts over the course of a year.

With his annual electric usage about 3.3 megawatts the system will supply about 90 percent of his needs.

Because power generation and needs vary day to day and hour-to-hour, supply and demand do not always match, he said.

Extra power created during the day will be sold to Citizens, and electrical demands not met by the array will be purchased from Citizens.

Assuming the energy savings and extra power production yields an average $20 per month, he should be able to save $240 per year or $2,400 per decade, he added.

However, Davidson said saving the environment - not money - was his prime objective for installing the solar system.

"In a post-9/11 world maybe people are starting to think about our consumer priorities," he said.

"We can't always depend on imported fuel."

Davidson also plans to utilize other renewable resources in his new home.

He wants to connect a downspout to the main roof drain scupper, channeling the water into a 500-plus gallon holding tank and using it for irrigation.

One good monsoon storm should supply enough rainwater to feed his backyard drip irrigation system for a month or two during the warmest summer, he said.

Holding tanks cost about $1.05 per gallon of capacity.

Davidson's home is one of about 27 homes in the county using a solar system for heating.