Solar co-op offers panels for lease

Grand Valley Power customers who want to go green with their utility bills but don’t have the $20,000 up-front cash to put solar panels on their roofs now have a different option.

The rural electric cooperative has built, and brought online this month, an 88-panel solar farm that customers can buy into.

For $950, Grand Valley users can lease one solar panel for 25 years.

“A couple of years ago we started asking the question, ‘How can we support solar and create a program that gets to more customers and is sustainable?’ ” said Derek Elder, energy service administrator for the co-op.

“That’s how the solar-farm concept got started.”

The result is a 20.68-kilowatt farm along Interstate 70 near 29 Road.

The co-op came up with the $950 one-time charge because that’s how much it cost to buy and install each of the 88 panels through solar contractor Atlasta Solar Center of Grand Junction.

The utility is hoping to lease each one — customers can lease more than one —  as an alternative to placing panels on their own roofs, Elder said.

Each panel generates about 235 watts of power per month. The average home uses about 5 kilowatts, so the panels will result in a savings to homeowners of about $3.70 a month, or about $44 a year, he said.

At the co-op’s current monthly rate, the lease will pay for itself in about 22 years, but that could happen sooner if rates increase during that time.

He said that cost return for customers doesn’t include the time and money they will save from not having to maintain the panels, such as clearing snow, regular cleaning or trimming trees to prevent the panels from being shaded.

If customers move during the life of their leases, they can transfer the panels to another address as long at it’s served by the co-op.

If not, it can be transferred to someone else, such as a neighbor, family member or friend.

“That way renters can participate as well as normal home- owners because we set it up so these credits can be transferred quite easily to another Grand Valley power account,” he said.

“If you put a solar panel on your roof, chances are you’re not taking that with you when you move.”

The co-op hopes to add more solar panels as demand increases.



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