Talking Green speakers weigh financial benefits of solar panels | SteamboatToday.com

Talking Green speakers weigh financial benefits of solar panels

A crane is used in September 2010 to raise solar panels onto the roof of the Moots Cycles building. The system designed by Emerald Mountain Energy, was expected to save Moots about $1,500 in electricity costs annually at its 15,000-square-foot factory and office facility on Steamboat Springs’ west side.





A crane is used in September 2010 to raise solar panels onto the roof of the Moots Cycles building. The system designed by Emerald Mountain Energy, was expected to save Moots about $1,500 in electricity costs annually at its 15,000-square-foot factory and office facility on Steamboat Springs' west side.
Matt Stensland file photo

— Sam Jones, of All Season Financial Advisors, told an audience of 63 people Tuesday evening his investment in solar energy really began to pay off at his home in rural Steamboat Springs when his wife purchased a hybrid, plug-in car.

"That accelerated my pay-back time by half," Jones said during Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s Talking Green event at Moots Cycles. "It's normally 12 to 14 years. Remember, you're off-loading gasoline (costs). The home run here is to plug in a car."

Jones said he has solar panels for heating domestic hot water on his roof, but in terms of realizing a return on his investment, he may not live to see that day, primarily because it is a thermal system as opposed to photovoltaic panels generating electricity.

"Our solar thermal project, I would have to say, that was probably a bad investment," Jones said.

A better opportunity, he said, has been the photovoltaic panels he purchased in the Clean Energy Collective's community solar array in Craig, which is operated in cooperation with Yampa Valley Electric Association.

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But before he invested in the CEC panels, Jones saved energy the old-fashioned way.

"Don't forget about the efficiency of upgrading your old furnace," he said. "We're on propane, so this is a huge incentive. We've (saved) 25 percent by upgrading," to a new boiler.

Purchasers of solar panels at the CEC array in Craig see a credit on their bills from YVEA. The electrical cooperative keeps track of how much power the solar panels generate each month.

Kevin Morse, CEC's director of commercial sales, reminded the audience that purchasing solar panels at the array isn't just for homeowners.

"If you are renting, but paying the electric bills, you can still have it credited to the bill," he said. "Bill credit can be transferred to any meter on the utility's network. And panels can be sold to another owner."

Matt Piva, co-owner of Brightside Solar, said he favors mounting solar arrays on ground mounts for his company's residential customers. Piva thinks energy security — the ability, through technological advances, to have a secure power supply even when the local utility goes down — is one of the biggest advantages of a home solar array.

Tuesday's presentation was hosted by Moots Cycles with beverages supplied by Butcherknife Brewing Co. Both companies have installed significant solar arrays on their buildings.

Yampa Valley Bank Vice President and Chief Lending Officer Ryan Van Ness said his bank feels fortunate to have helped Butcherknife finance its solar array and is open to helping more local businesses with similar endeavors.

Susan Holland, of Emerald Mountain Energy, said Moots was her first commercial account, and she is proud to have worked with local businesses such as Butcherknife and Elkstone Farm, as well as nonprofits including Yampatika and taxing entities such as Bud Werner Memorial Library, who have shown a commitment to alternative energy.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1