Project History

The Duluth Eco-Home project started as an idea to test how to transform the market for residential solar energy systems. The residential "solar roof" market was niche market for solar enthusiasts and showed little potential to become a more broad-based market. One of the primary barriers to putting a solar roof on a home was the large up-front cost. People make $10,000 - $20,000 decisions at only a few points in their lives, and few people will choose to buy a solar system instead of, for instance, a car.

The Solar Minnesota partnership was discussing how to change that equation. One point that came up was that the one time at which people routinely make $10,000 decisions is when they are building a home. Could it be possible, we all wondered, to make buying a solar system as easy as buying any other component of a new home? Do you want to include the granite countertop? Do you want the three bedroom or four bedroom model? Do you want the traditional roof or the solar roof?

CR Planning, working with the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, developed a conceptual program to test this theory. The program would work with a builder in a new development to put a solar system on the model home, offer it as an option to people considering buying a new home, and gage the effectiveness of using this market "pressure point" to transforming peoples' market-based choices. The City of Duluth was already a partner in Solar Minnesota, and in discussing the project with the Duluth Energy Office, CR Planning came across the HRA of Duluth and the Hawk Ridge development. CR Planning organized the initial collaborators for the program (City of Duluth, OEA, Minnesota Power, HRA of Duluth), wrote the grant application to the OEA (to limit the up-front risk to the builder for installing a solar system on the model home) and worked with the HRA to find a builder willing to cooperate on the project. While the initial grant application was turned down, OEA staff managed to find additional dollars to fund this project, and worked with the other project partners to facilitate a cooperative project. When the selected builder decided not to build a model home in the Hawk Ridge development (for reasons not having to do with the solar project) the HRA identified Women In Construction as a likely-to-be interested builder.

Web Content created by Wagner Zaun Architecture and Conservation Technologies under a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 2007