First Light Solar Makes History in Historic Montford District

February 3, 2010

First Light Solar (a division of FLS Energy) becomes the first solar energy company to be approved by the Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncomb

First Light Solar (a division of FLS Energy) becomes the first solar energy company to be approved by the Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County (HRC) to install solar thermal panels on an existing residential structure in the historic Montford district.

The solar thermal installation project is part of a total renovation of a 1912 bungalow owned by Vic and Sharon Fahrer. “I’m an environmental planner and my husband is an environmental engineer, so when we started this renovation, we decided to pursue Energy Star Certification on the home,” says Sharon Fahrer. “Solar thermal for hot water is an excellent choice because it’s clean, efficient and cost-effective.”

Although solar energy was an easy decision for the homeowners, it had to be brought before the HRC for approval. “Every aspect of a major renovation project to an historic structure has to be reviewed and approved by the HRC to ensure that the architectural integrity is not compromised,” explains Fahrer. “The visibility and aesthetics of the solar thermal panels were main concerns of the HRC – understandably so since it’s their responsibility to preserve the character of this neighborhood.”

With this in mind, the Fahrer’s selected First Light Solar, a local Asheville company that had a unique solution to the aesthetics issue. “First Light Solar specializes in Velux solar thermal systems. Velux has been manufacturing and selling solar thermal systems in Europe for 14 years but is just now breaking into U.S. markets,” explains Grant Gosch, director of First Light Solar. “It’s a unique system because it’s mounted and flashed into the roof so it has a very low profile and is aesthetically pleasing. Basically, it looks just like a skylight,” says Gosch.

Representatives from First Light Solar and the Fahrer’s, along with other Montford residents, presented the proposed solar thermal project to the HRC on January 20, 2010. “The board considered the solar installation proposal with open-minded enthusiasm,” says Fahrer. “They really wanted to be educated on solar energy solutions for Asheville’s historic districts. I think First Light Solar and Velux did an excellent job of addressing the HRC’s concerns over visibility and preserving the architectural integrity of the structure,” says Fahrer.

The HRC approved the First Light Solar/Velux solar thermal installation project on Thursday, January 21, 2010. “The approval of this solar technology is a total victory for the community of Montford,” says Tiffany Smith Schroeder, a Montford resident and sustainability consultant and environmental policy writer who consulted on the proposal. “Many homeowners are indeed excited because they now know the HRC is open to solar energy solutions on existing structures as well as new construction,” says Smith Schroeder.

The Fahrer’s were also excited and encouraged by the outcome. “With this approval, it’s our hope that it will be easier for others to apply for solar energy systems, and that in the near future, it will be considered minor work that could be approved without a review board hearing,” says Fahrer. “We also hope that we get our Energy Star Certification – thanks in part to the solar thermal system – and become the first Energy Star Certified home in Montford.”

The First Light Solar/Velux installation is scheduled to occur on Monday, January 25, 2010. “We are very excited about providing this forward-looking energy solution to the Fahrer’s and the historic Montford district,” says Gosch. “This one-panel system will produce up to 50 gallons of hot water a day and reduce hot water heating costs by up to 80% – all while looking terrific!” The Fahrer’s are also eligible for a 30% Federal and 35% State Tax Credit and a possible $1,000 rebate from Progress Energy. According to Gosch, there has never been a better time in history to go solar.

For more on First Light Solar visit or contact FLS Energy at 828.350.3993. First Light Solar, based in Asheville, N.C., is an award-winning solar energy design and installation company providing residential and light commercial clients with the latest technology in photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal (hot water) energy systems.