POR Virgil Boggess March 22, 2009
The year was 1979. Jimmy Carter was president. Virgil Boggess had moved to the Grand Valley from Evergreen with his wife and was looking for a new career.
Virgil read an article that the government would pay for 70 percent of solar energy systems with tax credits.
“In 1979 when the energy tax credit was formed I thought this was an idea that would catch on. Twenty-seven years later it finally caught on,” Boggess said.
Boggess opened Atlasta Solar Center, 2923 North Ave., in April 1979. It was the first solar retail center in the Grand Valley.
“Essentially I could be called a pioneer. We just learned on the job. We made all the mistakes,” Boggess said.
During the late ’70s and early ’80s a total of 37 solar energy companies came and went in the Grand Valley, Boggess said.
When the tax credit laws changed in 1985 and the incentives vanished, it was tough for solar companies to stay afloat. Boggess changed his business model and worked on more homes that were off the grid. He would install stand-alone solar systems and back-up generators for homes not reached by power lines.
All the other solar companies from the era went out of business. “I was the first and I’m the last,” Boggess said.
In 2005 renewable energy tax credits came back, and so did Boggess’ business. The Grand Valley has about a half-dozen solar energy business today.
“It’s been a long hard struggle in between,” Boggess said.
The federal government gives income tax credits for 30 percent of the cost of solar energy systems today. About four years ago residents in the Grand Valley generating solar power from their homes began earning credits from Xcel Energy. During the daytime the meter runs backward as extra solar power is transferred to the grid.
“My business has probably grown 600 percent since 2000,” Boggess said.
In 2000 Atlasta had two employees. Today there are 13.
One employee, Colin Geery, has worked on and off with Boggess for six years.
“I’m pretty set here, I don’t plan on going anywhere else,” Geery said.
Geery said Boggess is a pillar in the community. He quietly supports groups such as softball teams, Boy Scout troops and the Lions Club.
“He always gives, he doesn’t get a whole lot back,” Geery said. “Not a lot of people know we’re here, ’cause he doesn’t announce it.”
Residents interested in learning more about solar energy can attend in-house classes on topics such as, “everything you wanted to know about solar but were afraid to ask.”
“We are more than happy to answer people’s questions, this is the kind of thing that is scary to the average person, but at the same time it’s very simple,” Boggess said.
Boggess said the amount of energy a home can save depends on the lifestyle of its inhabitants.
“We have systems out there that have completely eliminated people’s Xcel bill,” Boggess said.
Simple fixes to lower electrical costs include the use of compact florescent light bulbs and plugging electronics such as televisions, printers, computers and telephones into power strips that can be turned off at night to prevent “ghost loads.”
“Saving energy kind of becomes a game,” Boggess said.