Enrollment now open for Solarize Eagle County program
The limited-time community initiative provides residents with a cheap and easy way to install solar panels on their homes
Enrollment for the 2022 Solarize Eagle County initiative opened April 8, and will remain open through June 8 of this year. Solarize Eagle County is a time-limited community program that gives residents all the tools necessary to install solar panels on their home while offering subsidies and rebates to make the transition as cheap and seamless as possible.
The program is led by Walking Mountains Science Center in partnership with Active Energies Solar, a local solar company based out of EagleVail that has supported three previous Solarize programs in the Western Slope. This initiative is one step toward reaching the larger Climate Action Collaborative goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County by 50% by 2030.
This past Tuesday, Richard Clubine, the owner of Active Energies Solar, held an information session with Walking Mountains to explain the program and announce the enrollment opening.
When Eagle County residents enroll in the Solarize program, they receive a free solar site assessment and customized proposal that factors in the energy usage of the house, roofing style, sun access and other elements. In addition to the site assessment, the program also includes a free home energy assessment, which analyzes power usage and the house and provides recommendations to the homeowner on areas where their power consumption can be reduced.
“All of this is free until you sign a contract,” Clubine said. “There’s no cost to sign up, there’s no cost to get the home assessment for solar, the proposal, and then we can work with homeowners on financing options.”
Once the installation proposal is received, homeowners can sign a contract with Active Energies Solar to have panels installed this year. Clubine said that they have already purchased over a megawatt of solar panels in anticipation of the Solarize program, and that they were purchased at last year’s prices, which are around 15% cheaper than this year.
“You know, you order an appliance and it takes six months to get here,” Clubine said. “We actually have all of the materials for all of the projects that we anticipate doing through Solarize in stock or on order to be delivered this summer, so we’ve cut that curve and designed it to save folks money.”
Solarize participants also qualify for substantial tax credits and rebates. This year, there is a 26% federal tax credit, which means that 26% of the total amount spent on installing the solar array is subtracted from the total tax owed for that household. Next year, the tax credit drops to 22%, before expiring completely in 2024.
In addition, Energy Smart Colorado provides rebates from $1,000-$2,000 dollars for homes in Eagle County, while Active Energies Solar is tacking on an additional $300 rebate per customer. Houses that use the Holy Cross Energy grid – which include all towns in Eagle County except for Minturn — will also receive the company’s rebate, which comes to $250 per kilowatt for the first six kilowatts installed and $100 per kilowatt for 7-25 kilowatts installed.
Active Energies is also donating $10 per kilowatt of installed solar over the course of the program to Walking Mountains Science Center to support environmental programs. All of these elements of the Solarize program are designed to minimize the barrier of entry for getting into solar power by making it as affordable and accessible as possible.
Clubine said that switching to solar not only makes sense for the environment, but it makes sense for homeowner’s wallets.
“You’re essentially locking in your utility rate,” Clubine said. “You’re paying about 5 cents per kilowatt hour over the lifespan of the system. Energy costs, specifically electricity, have risen almost 4% a year over the last 60 years, and that is expected to continue.”
Clubine said that about 85% of Active Energies’ customers completely eliminate their consumption from the grid and zero out their energy bills by producing enough power during the summer to cover all of their winter costs.
“If you have more production than you need, it actually flows back out on the grid in a net meter,” Clubine said. “The idea is to build a solar array that will produce more energy than you need, and you’ll have a solar bank. So in the summer, you’ll produce a lot more energy than in the winter, and you’ll build up a negative balance on your Holy Cross bill to be used in the winter when the sun’s not shining that much.”
Taking the full price of solar installation with rebates, the 30-year lifespan of the system, and the rising cost of energy, Active Energies calculates that the average solar array has a 9% return on investment over the course of its lifespan, and pays for itself in about nine years. Clubine also noted that homes with solar have a significantly increased market value, and tend to sell around 30% faster than those without.
“If you’re going to put $15,000 in the bank, you’re getting probably a half percent interest,” Clubine said. “The stock market returns, you know, 7% a year on average — this is a better investment than the stock market, and you’re doing something good for the environment.”
Eagle County residents are invited to sign up for a free site assessment, energy usage assessment, and proposal at walkingmountains.org/solarize. For those looking to learn more about the program before participating, there will be an in-person Solarize Kick Off Event at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon on April 29. For direct questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-328-8777.