A community outreach program aimed at adding to the more than 325 existing net-metered solar homes between DMEA and the City of Delta is about to sunset. Solarize Delta County's three-month educational campaign and enrollment period, aimed at driving down the cost of solar photovoltaic systems through a community group purchase program, is set to end July 15.
SEI's two AmeriCorps VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) tasked with the campaign have been busy traversing the county to share the benefits of accessible, affordable solar energy with Delta County residents. "We have had very engaging and inquisitive conversations with people across the county interested in solar, whether its for energy independence, reducing their carbon footprint, or saving money on their utility bills," said Marla Korpar, SEI VISTA.
So far the VISTAs have logged 25 educational and social outreach events, the most recent being a "Business After Hours" event. In partnership with installers Empowered Energy Systems of Hotchkiss and the Hotchkiss community and chamber, Hotchkiss Fire Station Chief Doug and his crew showed off their 13.5 kW solar PV system and fire engines to members of the public.
The result? Over 850 people have come to one of their events to learn about making their own, local energy with western Colorado sunshine. "Our work is coming at a very topical time, between the decline of the extraction industry but also the positive and monumental federal ruling for DMEA, allowing them to develop cost-effective local energy solutions. Solarize is part of the conversation of how can we tap our abundant natural resources to remain an energy-producing valley and continue to shop local," shared Gerald Espinoza, SEI AmeriCorps VISTA.
Already three systems from the campaign have been installed by local installers Empowered Energy Systems of Hotchkiss, with many more slated to begin. So far over 127 homes and businesses have registered for a free remote site assessment through the program, to learn more about making their own clean, local energy.
"We are turning the tables on the myth of economic development or the environment, right here in Delta County," Espinoza continued, "and in the process more and more neighbors are seeing how renewables can hedge against rising utility rates, keep money in the community and create jobs." And it's not just neighbors, local banks like the Delta County Federal Credit Union and Alpine Bank are offering solar loans to finance these systems. The deadline to register and return the remote site assessment to participate in the program is July 15.
As the educational campaign winds down, the SEI AmeriCorps are hosting several more free and educational events to help "connect the dots" for people weighing the investment in solar.
• July 7 -- $olar Makes $ense. Finance workshop to learn about the 30 percent federal tax credit, commercial accelerated depreciation, financing your PV system, making the solar investment and more at Hotchkiss Memorial Hall, 175 1st Street, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
July 9 -- Solar home tours. Tour several solar adopter homes in the North Fork Valley, led by SEI's Solarize program coordinators and partner installers of Empowered Energy Systems. See solar in action on just some of the over 325 solar homes in DMEA. RSVP with Solarize@solarenergy.org. Shuttle and carpool leave SEI at 10 a.m. and return at 1 p.m.
• July 23 -- Community pint night. Join Solarize enthusiasts for community and a contract signing party at Revolution Brewery in Paonia, 5 p.m.
• August TBD -- Solar coffee dates. Speed meet past Solarize participants and solar adopters to ask them about their experiences going solar.
Attendees are encouraged to invite their friends and neighbors to learn what "going solar" can mean for ecology, economy and energy independence. The more neighbors who go solar, the more everyone saves with tiered rebates. The first rebate of $400 off per system kicks in once the program contracts 100kW of total solar, with a max of $600 should the program pass 200kW.
Once you return your remote site assessment by July 15, you'll get a call to answer preliminary questions and to discuss energy efficiency and financing. Next the installers will contact you for a site assessment to produce a custom solar PV proposal. You will have until Aug. 15 to sign your contract and take advantage of the tiered rebates.
At program close, the final number of contracted solar will determine the rebates, which the installers will deduct from your final payment. The first rebate of $400 kicks in once we hit 100kW of total solar (the program is currently at 32.5 kW, this number will CLIMB as the deadline approaches), $500 if Solarize Delta County passes 150kW, and $600 if it passes 200kW.
For more information or to participate, go to http://www.solarenergy.org/solarize-delta-county/ or call 527-7657, ext. 213.