Solar co-op tests interest

SpECIAL TO THE SENTINEL

Homeowner Rich Rochette stands next to his solar panels from Atlasta Solar Center on top of his roof in the River Trail subdivision. All of the homes at the Senergy Builder’s River Trails subdivision have leased solar panels on the roof and are Energy Star-rated. Thanks to the upgraded insulation and building methods used to obtain Energy Star certification and the rooftop solar panels, total utility bills for homeowners in the subdivision are $30 to $40 per month.

Mesa County residents now have the opportunity to join a cooperative that seeks to help homeowners and private businesses shift to solar energy.

The Mesa County Solar Co-op, an arm of Solar United Neighbors, is now open for enrollment and the organization is looking to raise about $5,000 to help kickstart the effort.

Interested parties can enroll in the co-op at solarunitedneighbors.org/mesacounty. It’s free to join, but donations can be made on the site.

If the co-op can raise $10,000, it will be able to leverage that into an additional $5,000 through a matching grant with the Western Colorado Community Foundation. The organization already has $5,000 and is looking to crowdsource the remaining $5,000, according to Solar United Neighbors Colorado Program Director Bryce Carter.

The co-op will also host an informational session at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Mesa County Central Library, 443 N. Sixth St.

“I’m excited to see how it evolves,” Carter said.

Once the co-op hits 30 to 40 members, he said, the organization will put together a selection committee to engage with local installers and choose one to partner with for favorable rates through bulk purchasing power.

Those who join the co-op have no obligation to install solar power at their home or business.

Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit, nonpartisan solar advocate that exists to provide information and answer questions related to solar energy. It launched in 2007 and came to Colorado in 2019.

Mesa County is the fourth area in Colorado to launch a co-op through the organization. The other locations are Denver, Fort Collins and Yampa Valley.

If membership is to exceed 150 members, the co-op would likely close off to new members and look to form a new group in the area, Carter said.

The effort to form a co-op in Mesa County kicked off in mid-2019 with an exploratory meeting to gauge interest in late May.

Carter said about one of three co-op members actually goes through the installation process, but noted the potential savings to electric bills.

Solar installation can cost about $3 per watt, or $12,000 for a 4 kilowatt system. Estimated savings over the life of the system would exceed $17,000, according to Solar United Neighbor’s website.

“This is a piece of the pie of economic resiliency,” Carter said.

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