Solar panel interest warms in historic Breckenridge |

Solar panel interest warms in historic Breckenridge

Robert Allen
Summit County correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado – A full year after the Breckenridge Town Council approved legislation allowing solar panels in the historic district, four permits have been issued for installation of the eco-friendly technology.

“We’re starting to see more applications come in for it [and] talk to more people about it,” town planner Julia Puester said.

She presented the town’s policy at a historic preservation conference in February, where she showed slides of Abbett Placer Inn – the first historical site in the town’s historic district to install solar panels.

Innkeepers Emma Walch Hagen and Niels Hagen said they’re pleased with the installation of 13 photovoltaic solar panels on their structure, which was built in the 1890s.

The couple’s business saved more than 50 percent on the panels, which Innovative Energy installed in January. The $22,000 system pulled in an $11,700 rebate from Xcel Energy and a $6,700 tax credit from the federal government, Emma Walch Hagen said.

She said she and her husband are always looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly. The couple lived in England for five years before moving to Breckenridge.

“Solar is taking off” in her home country, Emma said. “There are whole new buildings going up with complete solar roofs on them.”

Innovative Energy engineer Sean McPherson said that in the course of a year, a system such as Abbett Placer’s averages about 375 to 380 kilowatt hours of energy per month.

The average Colorado home uses 700 kWh per month, according to the Center for ReSource Conservation at

McPherson said the systems are set up to run primarily off of the solar panels, switching to the electric grid when needed. Any unused energy in a given month is rolled over as credit for the next month on a person’s energy bill.

But not every structure in the town’s historic district can benefit from solar panels. Town staff must first determine whether a proposed installation meets specific criteria – such as low visibility from public right-of-ways – before a permit is issued.

Julie Edman, a CPA on Harris Street Alley, was one of the first in the town’s historic district to install photovoltaic panels.

“They’re great,” she said, adding that between the installation of the panels and gas-powered heating, her bills are “half what they used to be.”

Puester said the other two sites with permits in the district are Salt Creek Restaurant and Saloon, and the Summit County Housing Authority Office. Salt Creek’s hasn’t been installed, but is approved as solar thermal – which frequently involves concentrating sunlight to heat liquid, as opposed to photovoltaic panels, which directly convert the energy to electricity.

She said thermal solar is becoming more popular for restaurants to heat water.

“Also, I’ve seen interest in thermal solar for snow-melt systems,” she said.

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