By David RogersPalm Beach Daily News Daily News Staff Writer Posted: 6:55 p.m. Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Norman Goldblum is something of a Sunshine State pioneer.
Though town officials say he isn’t the first, Goldblum is among a small number of Palm Beachers who have had a solar energy system installed at their homes.
Goldblum, a former councilman, and his wife Simone, had Solar Energy Systems put a 7-foot by 72-foot swath of solar panels on the roof of their Everglades Avenue home in mid-March.
Then, Florida Power & Light Co. installed a meter that will credit the Goldblums for all the electricity the photovoltaic system generates.
"My son (Joseph) has it in Montauk, Long Island," Goldblum said. "He uses that house on the weekends. He produces enough power to get a rebate from the utility. I do not. I just reduce my utility bill."
In his office, on the second floor of the home, Goldblum pointed to his computer screen. There, a display shows how much power the system generates each hour and every day. On a recent sunny day, it generated 27.38 kilowatts of electricity.
A federal tax credit and a state rebate of $20,000 make the $45,000 price tag easier to swallow.
"I think it’s a good idea for the environment, the financial (benefit) and it’s technology I’m willing to gamble on," Goldblum said.
The system isn’t the Goldblums’ first foray into making their home more environmentally friendly. They installed a tankless water heater a few years back.
"It runs three bathrooms, the dishwasher and the washing machine," Goldblum said.
Individuals can receive a 30 percent federal tax credit for photovoltaic systems put in service before Dec. 31, 2016. The state’s nearly four-year-old solar energy system incentives program is set to end in June and no replacement funding appears to have made it in the 2010 budget now being finalized.
However, the state is taking steps to have FPL and other utility companies provide incentives to customers for installing solar energy systems.
The Goldblums may be the first residents of Palm Beach to install a sizable amount of solar panels on their home’s roof. Last year, the town increased the percentage of roof area that can be covered with solar panels. The percent was 10 percent. Now it is 30 percent. The panels cannot be visible from the street.
“We know we didn’t solve all issues, but by giving them more coverage on the roof, that helped out a lot,” said Paul Castro, the town zoning administrator.
In addition to price, a number of factors determine whether a solar energy system is appropriate for a particular property, according to Michael Beamer, regional manager for Solar Energy Systems.
The roof area to be used should get several hours of direct sunlight a day, he said. Tinting a home’s windows, having plenty of insulation in the attic and weather-proofing doors and windows help a solar energy system work more efficiently, Beamer said.
"You look at those things first,” Beamer said. “You want to lessen demand so that the air-conditioning doesn’t have to work hard."
Companies that install solar energy systems typically conduct an energy analysis to ensure customers don’t buy a system larger than they need, Beamer said.
Some potential customers’ concerns that installation of a solar panel system would void a roof’s warranty are unfounded, Bob Zrallack, Solar Energy Systems president said from his Fort Pierce office. It’s essential to hire a contractor licensed to install solar systems, he said.
"In the case of solar contractors, there is a requirement that we are trained not only on solar (installation) but on roofing practices,” Zrallack said. “It doesn’t mean we can install a roof, but we are trained so we can penetrate a roof and can work safely and make sure the roof is sealed back properly to the standards as if it were done by a roofing contractor."
Goldblum said he is happy with his system.
It’s highly unlikely his electric bill will ever again top $500, as it did last August in the hottest days of the summer.
"I would recommend it from what I can see in this short time," Goldblum said. "It’s environmentally friendly and economical."