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Woodbury family first to install solar panels

Arlen and Barbara Marcus installed 24 solar panels on the roof of a shed next to the main house, providing almost half of their energy needs. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

Arlen Marcus likes to think he inspired the city of Woodbury to consider solar panels on the public safety building.

"I like to think we encouraged them to match us," the Woodbury resident said.

In 2010, about 10 years after building their house on the south side of town, the Marcus family installed 24 rooftop solar panels that power 40 to 45 percent of their home's electricity annually.

The 5.5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system could produce more electricity for basic household consumption, but Marcus said the geothermal heating and cooling system they built the house with demands more out of the system.

"That was our first step in the reduction of energy consumption," Marcus said of the geothermal system.

The family wanted to continue environmentally friendly efforts with recycling, energy-efficient lighting and the solar panels. The year 2010 was the year to make the big investment.

"There were a lot of incentive programs," Marcus said, adding that the $30,000 system earned him about $7,000 in federal, state and Xcel Energy rebates.

The 2,500 square-foot home is located on 20 acres of land with wind coming from every direction, which is why Marcus said he considered switching to wind energy first.

"But wind is still a little too expensive," he said of a potential $50,000 system.

So he opted for the solar panels, which take visible light and convert it to electrical energy to the home.

Marcus said the panels were installed on a storage shed nearby because its roof allows them to sit at a perfect 45-degree angle, and the roof of the main house did not have enough surface area facing south for the entire system.

On a cloudy day, the system produces 15 kilowatt hours versus a sunny day that can produce about 35 kilowatt hours.

The highest output in a month was about 800 kilowatt hours, Marcus said, and the lowest was approximately 450.

"We get pretty much even output all year long because of the angle that the panels are at," Marcus said.

On May 19, Arlen and his wife Barbara Marcus were given an Environmental Excellence Award by the city for their efforts to become carbon neutral.

The residence is the first in Woodbury to receive the award and to install a solar photovoltaic system. The panels in combination with geothermal heating and cooling and about 1,000 trees on the site, are expected to reduce electrical consumption significantly, according to city officials.

Marcus said he's considering installing more solar panels on the shed because there is room for it and the potential savings would increase.

With 50 percent more panels, the system would produce about 60 percent of the home's electrical needs on an annual basis, he added.

Marcus said he hopes his project is inspiration for other Woodbury residents to consider installing similar panels even just on a smaller scale.

"So far it's met or exceeded all my expectations," Marcus said. "I'm very happy with it."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.