Solar co-op tests interest

All of the homes at the Senergy Builder's River Trails subdivision have leased solar panels on the roof and are Energy Star-rated.

Delta County farmer Steve Ela saved a minimum of $1,000 per month on utility bills last year after installing solar panels at his 100-acre organic farm where he grows mostly tree fruits – peaches, plums, pears, sweet cherries and apples.

Ela financed 100% of the $60,000 solar project, with no money down, thanks to Colorado C-PACE (Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy), a New Energy Improvement District program that offers a financing tool for commercial and multi-family property owners to install energy efficiency, water conservation and other renewable energy improvements on existing and newly constructed properties.

"The nice thing about the loan is they attach it to your property tax bill – that's where C-PACE is different from a traditional loan," Ela said. "You make one payment a year, as part of your regular property tax payment."

Ela expects to pay off his loan within eight to 10 years, at which time he said he will no longer have a utility bill. The solar system is expected to last more than 25 years. Montrose and Delta counties are among 29 Colorado counties that have adopted the C-PACE loan program, with 10 other counties currently "in discussion" with program officials. Only one, Mesa County, has declined to participate in C-PACE after it was introduced to county commissioners a couple of years ago.

The remaining 24 counties have not yet been approached by C-PACE, said Tracy Phillips, director of Colorado C-PACE.

Read the full story at The Colorado Sun.

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