The Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE) is offering to the public a handful of new incentives and bigger rebates for solar energy, in the hopes of growing local solar power use.
The portion of the program CORE expects to expand solar usage most is the inclusion, for the first time, of leased solar panels for rebates.
Leasing rooftop solar panels is more affordable than buying them outright — and an increasing number of companies are offering leasing options.
CORE officials are hoping that the option to lease, coupled with rebates of up to $2,000 on those panels, will attract new homeowners to use solar.
“As of yet it hasn’t come into the valley extensively,” Amelia Potvin, CORE’s community sustainability coordinator, said of leasing solar panels. “But we want to support that market because it’s been so successful elsewhere.”
Leased panels are normally set up and sized based on the existing electricity bill of a home, so the more energy efficient a building already is, the cheaper the solar lease. So, Potvin theorized, if a homeowner does a local Energy Smart home efficiency audit, makes the recommended upgrades, then leases solar panels with a CORE rebate, they can rack up savings and efficiency. Energy Smart audits are funded by local governments and conducted by CORE, whose experts will for free identify energy inefficiencies and ways to reduce a homeowner’s carbon footprint.
The expanded rebates include $105,000 from Aspen and Pitkin County’s Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP), which collects fees from new homeowner energy-intensive uses and applies the funds for efficiency measures like these. The new rebates were approved by both the Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County commissioners last month, and went into effect immediately.
They also approved upping their rebates on solar heating by six times, from $1,000 to up to $6,000, and added new rebate options for tune-ups and control meters on solar water-heating systems.
Potvin said CORE is hoping that the debate over natural gas drilling in the Thompson Divide might persuade more locals to choose to heat their homes with solar technology rather than gas, and upped the rebates as further incentive.
The rebate program is open to locations within the Roaring Fork, Frying Pan and Crystal valleys.
REMP dollars also provided more than $300,000 in grants for 10 renewable energy projects, including $9,000 for new studio lighting for Grassroots Television, $30,000 for electric vehicle charging stations for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA), and $31,500 for energy-saving windows and doors at the Truscott Place housing complex.
Potvin said the Grassroots application was particularly attractive, because it stemmed from station guests complaining that the studio’s stage lighting made it too hot. Rather than installing energy-sucking air conditioning, as many had called for, the station went to CORE for an energy efficient solution.
“We can reduce our carbon footprint and cool off our space at the same time, through lighting improvements,” Grassroots director John Masters said.