Bill Bullock wants to build the first all-solar subdivision in Yavapai County, if the economy would just help him out a bit.
"We're trying to separate ourselves from the foreclosure market," Bullock said. "It's difficult to do by price."
So he's gained approval for a 99-home subdivision on 22 acres in Cottonwood called Grey Fox Ridge that features extensive Energy Star fixtures along with solar electricity panels.
So far he's sold four homes and three of them have solar.
"I'd love it if we could do solar on the whole thing," said Bullock, who has been a builder and developer in the Verde Valley for 37 years.
Energy Star is a government-backed program encouraging energy efficiency through tax credits and rebates. Arizona Public Service has its own Energy Star program that provides $1,000 per home to solar subdivisions.
Grey Fox Ridge is participating in the APS program along with three other subdivisions, all of which are located in the Valley of the Sun.
APS officials said Grey Fox Ridge is the only solar subdivision in Yavapai County.
Energy efficient components of each Grey Fox home include dual pane windows, gas heating, insulation, hot water heaters with recirculating pumps and programmable thermostats.
The Energy Star features add about $6,000-8,000 to the cost of a $200,000 home, or only about 3.5 percent, Bullock said. Solar panels producing 2.3 kilowatts cost $10,333 initially but the federal and state governments are providing tax credits (even without itemizing) of $3,200 and $1,000 respectively, Bullock said.
Energy savings quickly return the investment. For example, the solar panels alone pay themselves back in 5-7 years, Bullock said.
"A year ago if somebody said solar power, I would have thought, 'That's for rich people,'" Bullock said.
The subdivision's office model home is averaging a $9.25 monthly electric bill since December, Bullock said, and it gets Arizona Public Service credits to store up for the highest use months in the summer.
"That's pretty cool," Bullock said, no pun intended.
The homes also are environmentally friendly because of their location near downtown Cottonwood. Residents can walk a quarter-mile on subdivision trails to reach downtown businesses and connect to a city trail along the Verde River, reducing automobile needs.
"We've got fantastic views of the Verde River," he said.
The subdivision even has a separate water line system for outdoor water from an on-site well, ready for conversion to effluent in case the city ever provides effluent for outdoor use.
Besides the economy, Bullock said his largest struggle with the new subdivision has been the way appraisers value the homes. Appraisers won't count the value of the solar and Energy Star fixtures, he said.