Residents in Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah, have a chance to go solar thanks to a group purchase program being orchestrated by Utah Clean Energy this summer. The program was brought about through a partnership of Utah Clean Energy and local citizens with Gardner Engineering.
The discount has been offered since June, according to Billy Smallen, project coordinator for Utah Clean Energy. The program will end September 21, the last day of summer, he added.
“Members of the community came to us looking for a project, the First Unitarian Church was looking for a project, the community was looking for solar here, we gave them technical assistance,” Smallen said. “It was a group of interested volunteers, three gentlemen were really excited to design and review an request for proposals. We gave them technical assistance. We helped them write it and helped them distribute that.”
Gardener Energy responded with a submission that met their needs, which included financing capabilities, according to Smallen. The two together created the Salt Lake City Community Solar Program. It’s Utah Clean Energy and the steering committee. Now Utah Clean Energy is managing the day to day on outreach and the survey,” he said.
Utah’s cheap electric prices and lack of incentives have made solar less competitive in the Beehive State than in some of its neighbors like Nevada or Colorado. But, “Utah has a great net-metering law, Utah Clean Energy has been working to protect and support that,” Smallen said. That and the group discount purchase is helping make solar more competitive by reducing PV system costs from 30 percent to 40 percent.
“We’ve only got 7 systems committed but already 165 have taken the survey. There’s a huge backlog, about half those people haven’t been contacted yet, so we see quite a bit of interest coming down the line,” Smallen said. “So far we have 24 kilowatts that are committed to, and about 8 of those have been installed already.…We definitely see this increasing the amount of residential solar here. A lot of people say they’ve been waiting for the right time ad they see this as the right time.”
It’s the first time such a program has been offered in the state. The program was modeled after the Solarize Portland program last year, so it has precedent, Smallen said. Already other counties and cities in Utah have requested Utah Clean Energy’s help in creating more discount programs like it, he said.