Meeting to gauge interest in solar

Buying in bulk could save money

An exploratory meeting to learn whether the strength-in-numbers concept would induce more Southwest Colorado residents to invest in photovoltaic solar systems is scheduled for Tuesday.

Specifically, would a 20 to 40 percent discount on the cost of a solar system, available through bulk buying, make it worthwhile for homeowners or businesses to invest?

The Four Corners Office of Resource Efficiency, or 4CORE, is organizing the meeting from 9 to 11 a.m. in the Windom Room at Durango Community Recreation Center.

If there’s interest, city, county and community participation will be necessary, 4CORE director Gregg Dubit said Wednesday. There’s much to be done, he said. Volunteers will be needed to lead outreach, marketing and procurement of equipment.

“We’re not seeing a high rate of adoption of renewable energy here,” Dubit said. “At our latitude, there should be more interest in solar.”

Cheap electricity discourages homeowners and business people from investing in photovoltaic solar because the return hasn’t been great, Dubit said. But the situation could change as rates increase, he said.

La Plata Electric Association has 1.9 megawatts of photovoltaic solar in its service area, mainly La Plata and Archuleta counties, spokeswoman Indiana Reed said.

Outreach and education about photovoltaic solar are essential, Dubit said. It may not be widely known that once installed, a solar system doesn’t require maintenance or that a solar system can add value to a home the same as wood floors or granite counter tops.

“There’s been lag time in connecting smart energy to appraisal values,” Dubit said. “The cost per megawatt is dropping.”

In communities where the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solarize Campaign has taken place, solar installations have increased, Dubit said. In Salt Lake City, installations rose 40 percent from one year to the next, he said.

“It seems contagious,” Dubit said. “There is a definite ripple effect.”

The goal of the Tuesday meeting is to gauge community interest in joining forces to reduce the cost of getting into solar, Dubit said.

“Once we know, we’ll be able to say if we have the momentum to go ahead,” Dubit said.