Colorado Springs Gets Its First Solar Co-Op
April 28, 2022
Colorado Springs recently got its first solar co-op, making it the 10th total in the state.
Solar United Neighbors, a nonprofit that advocates for energy rights and educates residents on solar power, set up the co-op. Its creation comes after an increasing number of Colorado Springs residents have chosen to install solar panels. The city sees more than 1,000 installations annually.
What Does the Colorado Springs Solar Co-Op Offer?
Solar United Neighbor’s goal is to reduce the price of rooftop solar panel systems for city homeowners. Co-op members can expect a 10% to 12% discount on their purchase. Plus, this is before local rebates and incentives go into effect, which will further reduce up-front costs.
The hope is that the price paid for a solar panel array through the co-op will replace monthly utility power costs. Once the panels are paid off, a Colorado Springs Solar Co-Op member has to pay only a fee for accessing the city grid. People involved with the co-op know they save money over time.
[Related: What Is Off-Grid Solar Power?]
Saving Money vs. Saving Energy
Jim Riggins, an electrical engineer and steering committee member, says people are more intrigued about saving money than reducing their carbon footprint. “Saving money is as much a conservative value as it is a progressive value,” Riggins said.
Riggins has his own solar panel system, which he was able to pay off in seven years. It powers both his home and two electric vehicles (EVs), allowing him to save money on electricity and gas. Though Riggins is likely sourcing electricity for his car through an outlet in his garage, home-based solar carports and public solar-powered EV charging stations are becoming increasingly popular.
Riggins also explained that the city’s utility company will have access to locally generated power from homeowners’ rooftop solar panels. About 6% to 10% of electricity is lost in transmission through power lines, which is unsustainable.
That said, excess power from the city’s solar panels will go into the grid. This will benefit the entire community with more reliable access to power without losing money or electricity along the way.
[Related: Home EV Charging vs. Public EV Charging]
Peak View Solar and Electrical Joins With Solar United Neighbors
All Colorado Springs Solar Co-Op members receive the same vendor-supplied panels and equipment at the same discounted price.
Nancy Brodhagen, owner of Peak View Solar and Electrical, estimated homeowners can spend about $2.80 per watt for a 5 kilowatt (kW) system, which adds up to $14,000. This system size is large enough to accommodate a 2,000-square-foot home.
However, residents with larger homes in the Colorado Springs area will likely need an 8 kW system to match their energy needs. And as a result, they’ll spend $22,000.
Brodhagen explained how she’s seen prices as high as $4.50 per watt, so solar co-op members can achieve substantial savings. Additionally, every co-op member has an independent contract with Peak View.
But joining the co-op doesn’t mean members must buy a solar panel system. If they decide to, they’ll create independent contracts with Peak View. At the end of the day, Peak View’s goal is to ensure residents can produce as close to 100% of their solar energy needs as possible.
Decline in Solar Panel Cost Sparks Customer Demand
The dropping cost of solar panels in recent years has resulted in more people pursuing solar installations in the Colorado Springs area.
Danielle Oller, a spokesperson for Colorado Springs Utilities, explained how the company approved 1,169 rooftop installations by mid-2021 and 1,345 overall in 2020. The demand for solar is soaring.
Gabe Caunt, a distributed energy strategies engineer for Colorado Springs Utilities, stated, “Any additional renewable generation that customers install contributes to reduced emissions and reduced fuel purchase costs for Springs Utilities.”
Essentially, the rapid increase in solar panel interest helps the city utility just as much as homeowners. And the recent increase of the federal solar tax credit to 30% through 2032 means that solar interest will certainly remain strong.
The Rise in Colorado’s Clean Energy Movement
Caunt also noted several companies in the Colorado Springs area are installing solar panels to meet their corporate sustainability goals. Although corporations aren’t eligible to join co-ops created by Solar United Neighbors, the rise in solar energy use is a step in the right direction in terms of responsible, renewable energy practices.
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