Free energy: Douglas man teaches the values of going solar |

Free energy: Douglas man teaches the values of going solar

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Mike Noble has built a solar-powered house, dreams of having a solar-powered car and is teaching a college course on simple ways to use solar energy at home.

“I don’t know when it happened,” said Noble, sitting in the sun room of his Douglas County house. “But I’m sort of like a solar cat. You know how if I had a pet, the pet would right there laying in the sun?

“I’m kind of that way. During the day if don’t have any particular project, I’ll come out here and get my book out and sit in the sun. It’s wonderful.”

Solar energy will be a key to help the country to break its reliance on fossil fuels, he said, but more time in the sun just feels good, too.

What he wants to teach students at his Western Nevada College classes is that that people don’t have to spend that money to build a solar-powered house to enjoy the sun. There are low-cost, low-tech things people can do like add installation, cover windows at night and, like he did, build a sun room facing south.

“You can be out here in the middle of winter when it’s blowing and 30 below and it will be like Hawaii or Florida,” he said.

Outside Nevada winters, the retired science professor spends half the year on Stuart Island in Washington near the Canadian border. His house on the 3-square-mile island is completely powered by solar energy, using things like solar energy cells and windows facing south.

“It’s pretty much like a regular house but way neater,” he said.

Home modifications can cost anywhere from $3,000-$150,000, said solar home builder Fred Smith, but Northern Nevada is a great place, almost as good as Southern Nevada, to us the energy.

“We’re high and we’re dry,” said Smith, who runs Sunfire Research in Gardnerville.

Larry Burton, head of the state tax rebate program SolarGenerations, said because the energy can be expensive, he recommends customers cut their energy use by doing things like installing efficient lights and regularly changing heater filters before switching to solar energy.

A system that could power a quarter of the average house’s energy use would cost about $10,000, he said.

For Noble, all the work has been worth it.

“I’m kind of a solar guy,” he said.

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