Campaign to ‘Solarize Garfield County’ homes and businesses launches this month
Program offers free on-site assessment with no commitment
Garfield Clean Energy (GCE) launches a three-month campaign this week to boost site-based solar energy generation in Garfield County by offering home and business owners below-market pricing and rebates.
GCE is an 11-year-old partnership between local governments and educational institutions in Garfield County designed to help local government buildings, schools, libraries, businesses and homeowners achieve better energy efficiency.
The program is administered by the Carbondale-based nonprofit organization Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER).
For the “Solarize Garfield County” campaign, GCE has hired Active Energies Solar of Eagle County as the exclusive solar installer, which brings cost savings through group-buying power in addition to the rebates that are available, according to a GCE news release.
The campaign will continue through June.
The effort is similar to a recent campaign in Summit County initiated by Solar Energy International in Paonia, which also partnered with Active Energies Solar.
There, the campaign resulted in 110 rooftop and ground-based solar units that now produce 840 kilowatts of solar electric power for those homes and businesses, said Active Energies Solar owner Richard Clubine.
“The idea is to try to get as many homeowners and businesses to go solar in a group,” he explained. “This way, the company saves on travel and materials costs, and we can pass those savings on to the customers.”
The program offers a free assessment over the phone, followed by a no-cost, no-commitment site assessment by the installer, during which Clubine said they provide unbiased advice about installing a solar electric system.
At that point, the customer can decide if they want to sign a contract, or not, he said.
In addition to the reduced-cost pricing for the installation through bulk purchasing, all three electric utilities in Garfield County — Holy Cross Energy, Xcel Energy and Glenwood Springs Electric — are offering rebates ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 for customers who go solar.
There are also significant federal tax credits available, and GCE is offering a rebate for local property owners who participate in the program.
To help explain things, GCE is hosting an introductory webinar, “Why Solarize?,” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, covering the basics of how the program works, as well as costs, rebates, tax credits and financing options.
“We’ve had different campaigns offering incentives to go solar, but this is the first time we’re doing a bulk purchase campaign,” said Maisa Metcalf, director of consumer engagement for CLEER. “It’s a great way to get the community behind it and bring solar to more homes and businesses.”
Who: Garfield Clean Energy, “Solarize Garfield County” campaign
What: “Why Solarize” introductory webinar
When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 4
Info: Call CLEER, 970-704-9200, ext. 1101
Clubine further described the cost savings achieved through the program in Summit County.
The average-size home there involved a 7- to 8-kilowatt system, which would cost roughly $24,000 to install.
After a 26% federal tax credit, that cost was reduced to $17,750.
On top of that in Garfield County, Holy Cross Energy customers would receive a $3,000 rebate, and Glenwood Electric and Xcel customers receive at least $1,500, Clubine said.
However, the city and Xcel rebates are limited to the first 35 customers, while the Holy Cross rebates are unlimited, he said.
In the end, the customer pays about 60-70% of the actual cost to install the system. And, the system itself will in most cases completely offset a home’s energy use, with utility credits for any excess energy production back to the grid, Clubine also explained.
With financing options that are available, “about 95% of the people we’ve worked with pay less on a financed loan than they were paying on their electric bill.”
Still, “there is zero pressure,” he added. “We want it to be the owners choice and have it be the right decision for them.”
Metcalf noted that Garfield County already has an active solar market with numerous installers based here.
“A lot of companies are doing well, and the utilities and the county have some aggressive renewable energy goals,” she said. “We want to create an even stronger solar market in the county.”
In addition to the home- and business-based solar incentives now being offered, CLEER is also leading the charge to increase commercial-scale solar energy generation in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties.
That project, which is still in the development stages, includes mapping parcels in the tri-county region that would be suitable for solar development and working with governmental jurisdictions to streamline the permitting process, explained Katharine Ruston, Renewable Energy Program Director for CLEER.
Further details of that effort are forthcoming, she said.
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