Seniors Going Green, Not Gray, With Solar Energy!




Article by

AM McElroy




Seniors Going green, not gray, with solar energy!


Solar energy

One of the largest markets for solar power is senior living communities, both those run by private companies and those managed by state or municipal agencies. For the most part, these are solar panel installations to supplement on-grid power and reduce energy and operating costs.

Solar power for communities managed by corporations or government agencies, it’s logical: the cost of running senior living communities, whether post-55 complexes or those providing assisted living or advanced care services, have small profit margins making using solar energy for power an idea answer to rising costs.

Along with lowering operating costs, solar energy programs instituted at senior communities often take advantage of incentives offered by federal and state agencies for solar power installation.

Lessons from Decades Past

Many people who buy and use solar power panels and solar lighting are in most part over 55. To some, it may seem surprising that the “older crowd” would be so open to new technologies, even when many renewable subsidies are expiring with an unknown future given the recent debt ceiling and related financial issues in Washington, DC.

The fact is that unlike many younger members of the Green Community, these folks lived through the 1970s energy crisis and know that reliance on traditional fossil fuels will continually be more expensive and that the United States must become less reliant on fuel from the Middle East. That is why they are switching to solar energy power. This certainly does not mean that environmental concerns are not also a factor.

One resident of a 12-acre, 318 unit campus in Portland, OR, that “went green” wrote to the facilities’ management to commend them “for their interest is protecting the environment.” The CherryWood Village Retirement Community in Portland installed a 92.4 kilowatt solar enegy panel system that is estimated to reduce the facility’s main building energy bills by an estimated 25% annually. CherryWood Village is both a retirement and assisted living housing community.

Since Oregon is not a region known for its sunshine, it shows how far solar energy power technology has come in recent years. Other regions that have or are now “Going Green” with solar energy power include a 36-unit apartment building for moderate and low income senior citizens in Medford, NJ. In fact, the project is presently one of four national finalists for the 2011 award for “best New Senior Housing Development,” granted by Affordable Housing Finance, a national trade magazine/website serving the affordable housing development market.

The Medford, NJ, senior residence was completed in September 2010 and with full occupancy by December 2010. Along with one and two bedroom units, building amenities include a community room, a laundry room, a lounge, a computer room and a wellness room. The new construction included a major solar energy power roof panel installation. Along with communities in Northern and Southern California, the other finalist is located in Pennsylvania.

Even so, California and the Sunbelt is where solar energy power took hold years ago and these regions have the most senior residences with hybrid solar energy power systems.

In 2010, the City of Indian Wells, CA upgraded its Indian Wells Villa senior citizen apartment complex. The 90-duplex development with a clubhouse and pool spreads across 10 acres of property was originally built in 1992. In 2010, the owners installed a solar energy power system in a retrofit that included new roofing, high efficiency air conditioners, water heaters, and toilets. The solar energy power installation comprised of 1,092 solar panels, 39 inverters, and a web-based, 24/7 state of the art solar power monitoring system.

The solar energy power system, combined with the other energy savings measures, is expected to reduce the low-income tenants’ annual electric bill by 80-90%. The $3.2 million project was funded by the City of Indian Wells Redevelopment Agency, coupled with $1.8 million from Southern California Edison through Multi-Family Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) incentives and grants. It was designed and installed by Solar Distributors, Inc. of Palm Desert, CA.

As a retailer of solar energy powered lighting, one of the author’s first large sale contracts involved a residential community in Florida that was an “over 55” condominium complex. When they wanted to replace 72 lamp posts, they told me they looked at solar power for two reasons: reducing operating costs and environmental impacts; solar energy incentives were not available and were therefore not part of the decision making process.

Advocacy Plays a Role

As energy costs rise and both managers and residents of senior complexes become more conscious of energy costs, more solar energy power developments seems inevitable. Website and publications for these communities are a key part of the effort.

For example,, “U.S. Senior Citizen Resources for America’s Senior Citizens” continually educate their audience on the benefits of renewable solar energy. The American Association for Retired People also actively supports renewable solar energy power through its online resources and magazine.

These and other sites and publications regularly publishing bulletins on the latest in incentive changes and other ways to save energy and articles on solar power off-grid homes, “My Generation: Going Green,” “Solar City Sees Bright Future for Residential Solar Systems,” and “Which US States Lead in Clean Energy.”

It’s still unclear what the future holds in terms of incentives for renewable energies, a topic deserving of its own article after the dust in Washington, DC settles and details of where spending cuts will occur.

Which means that regardless of your age, it’s a great time to make your voice heard: if renewable energy is an area you want the government to invest in, particularly rather than subsidies to traditional energy sources such as oil companies, now is the time to make your voice heard.

Seniors Are Often Active Advocates

Being an active advocate is easier than you think: phone, write or email your senators and congressional representative. True, the lobbyists spend the money, but ultimately its the voters who make the decision in the ballot box.

And one thing younger generations can learn from senior citizens is how to make their voices heard, a key reason Florida is a “battleground election state.” Senior citizens know very well how to make their interests, and the fact that they vote, known very well to politicians.

Copyright 2011, AM McElroy,, All rights reserved.

About the Author

AM McElroy has over 20 years experience in corporate communications and marketing / sales in the banking sector, civil / environmental engineering, high-tech and natural sciences (physics) arenas.

An avid fan of solar power lights and solar energy power, it has an online store,, which focuses on solar products. In addition to sales, the site hopes to educate consumers about solar energy lighting and other renewables as does his blog.Use and distribution of this article is subject to our guidelines Editeurpar which the original author’s information and copyright must be included.

AM McElroy


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    • That’s true. It might also be true that wind power is a good supplemental suocre of power for example, in the really really icy winter months in some areas. Then again they do use solar power in the Arctic though maybe in the summer? In Scandinavia quite a lot of wind energy is used in addition to solar. It might also depend on which types of solar panels you have. For example I remember the main with the solar-powered van in England also had a wind-turbine he could connect up in case there was not enough solar energy.There is also wind at night obviously you would normally store your solar-generated electricity so that you can use it at night as well, but the wind can probably be a backup or supplement to solar power or vice versa, in very windy areas.

  2. A solar electric system consist of in simplest terms a panel, charge controller, battery, and a load lights, radio, etc . This system can be expanded on. The first item you need to consider is the loads, what do you want them to be. How much energy do they consume per hour and how many hours a day are they used. The next is the voltage of the items 12volt dc, 24 volts dc, 120 volts ac. In general 120 volt ac itmes are easier to obtain but in general less effeciant but also have longer life spans then the 12 and 24 volt dc versions. Example we use 1 light bulb that consumes 20 watts at 12 volt for 4 hours a day. This buld would need 20*4=80 watts of energy per day. Next lets say you had 5 of these light bulbs and they were all used the same amount every day, you would need 80*5=400 watts to run these lights. Next lets say you want 2 days of reserve energy incase it rains or something 400 *2=800 watts. These 2 figures help give us the panel and battery size. Lets look at the panels first. we determind we needed 400 watts per day. Look around on the interent and you will find a chart with hours a day of sun light for your area. Lets say your area get 2.5 hours of direct sun per day in the worst time of year you would need 400/2.5=160 watts of panels. The next figure is the 800 watts of battery. You never want to discharge your battery more than 40% this will reduce your battery life. So lets do the math again. (800/40)*100=2000 Now lets assume your battery back is 12 volts 2000/12=167 amp hour back. So your system would consist now of 160 watts of solar panels 167 amp 12 volt battery bank a charge controller mounting system for the panels, box for the batteries, and an small fuse or breaker panel to protect all the equipment. This would be a very simple system but if you wanted to add tv’s radios computer etc. you need to do the load calcs on them add them all together and do the maths. Don’t just go out and buy a system someone off the internet sales you it may not be right for what you need. Something else you will need to see the sun most of the day no shading of the panels. Good luck solar is great.

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