Local solar co-op aims to cut power system costs
by Steve Kadel
staff writer
Jan 24, 2013 | 5072 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
American Solar Power owner Kevin Hansen, left, and John Knight stand near the solar panels Knight and his parents recently installed to provide electricity for their two houses. Photo by Steve Kadel
American Solar Power owner Kevin Hansen, left, and John Knight stand near the solar panels Knight and his parents recently installed to provide electricity for their two houses. Photo by Steve Kadel
Utah residents considering the purchase of a solar electricity system have until Jan. 28 to apply for rebates of up to $5,000 on the cost of materials and installation.

Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) will send a check to participating homeowners or business owners 60 days after they set up a solar system. The company holds an annual lottery to choose participants, with all applicants being notified Feb. 8.

Last year, 16 percent of the residential applicants who applied for the incentives were chosen for the program, said RMP spokeswoman Margaret Oller. Twenty-two percent of the non-residential applicants were selected, she said.

Kevin Hansen, owner of American Solar Power, a firm that installs solar systems, spoke about the program and other aspects of solar energy last week during an informational meeting of the Grand County Solar Co-op.

Now in its second year, the group exists primarily to help get lower start-up prices for new solar system owners by buying solar panels in bulk. More than 550 panels have been purchased so far.

The co-op’s other goals include working with contractors and engineers to give customers the best design prices, and educating the community on the benefits of solar power. Among the benefits, Hansen said, are savings on electricity bills and reduced burning of coal and natural gas, which now generates 73 percent of the electricity in Utah.

The co-op plans another informational session Thursday, Jan. 24, at 5:45 p.m. in the Grand County Public Library, 257 E. Center St. Co-op members will give an introduction to solar power, discuss the cost justification for a business or residential system, and talk about how to finance a solar power system. They also will discuss RMP’s Utah solar incentive program and how to submit an application.

There’s no cost to join the co-op, and people may sign up by sending an email to grandcountysolarcoop@gmail.com.

Last week, members noted that those who install solar systems get a 30 percent federal tax deduction on the cost of materials and installation. The state of Utah also gives a 25 percent tax credit, up to $2,000, on the cost of equipment and installation for any renewable energy source or energy conservation project, Hansen said.

Co-op member DuVal King said Moab has several private solar energy systems for a town its size. It ranks first in RMP’s Utah network for per capita solar production, he said.

Hugh Glass, a solar system designer and installer, said people must consider their future electricity needs when deciding what type of system to build. Questions should include whether they foresee buying an electric car and whether they will be changing from propane-powered household appliances to electric ones, he said.

“Displacing propane is a real good value,” Hansen said.

For Moab residents John Knight and his parents, Elizabeth and Robert Sherlock, two banks of solar panels provide more electricity than is needed for their two homes. The excess goes back into the power grid, and RMP gives them credit toward each month’s bill.

Knight said the family’s initial investment of $30,000 would pay for itself in eight years if the price of electricity stayed at last year’s level, which was lower than the current rate. More likely, he said, rising electricity rates will mean the investment pays for itself in four to five years.

“It’s one of those times when being green is financially advantageous,” Knight said.

They installed the panels about five weeks ago. On a recent sunny morning, they produced 6,350 watts of power. Knight said the output usually hits 7,000 watts by noon. Between 2,500 and 3,000 watts of that amount goes to the grid.

Hansen’s American Solar Power has installed 30 solar systems in Utah, including 20 in Moab and Castle Valley. He provided the panels for Knight and his parents through the co-op.

The panels, made entirely in the U.S., have a 25-year warranty. Knight said Hansen did a good job of installing the two banks of panels in a way that fits unobtrusively in the neighborhood.

“It doesn’t obstruct any of our neighbors’ views,” Knight said. “It is possible to install a pretty big installation that doesn’t ruin the land or make your neighbors mad.”

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