Feb 042010
Authors: Matt Miller

CSU atmospheric science researcher Kip Carrico is harnessing the sun to provide his own energy needs.

Thanks to Fort Collins Utilities’ solar rebate program, more people like Carrico are finding it more affordable to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on their home or business.

Starting last Wednesday, Fort Collins Utilities will be accepting applications for rebates on solar panel systems through Feb. 26.

They offer a rebate up to $4,500 for homes and up to $15,000 for businesses. The state also offers rebates on top of those offered locally.

Applications for rebates are available online at http://fcgov.com/solar-rebates; those who install the system will receive full credit for the electricity that it generates.

Fort Collins Utilities has offered this program for the last two years as a way to encourage people to buy this currently expensive technology.
“The technology works and is proven to work, but it’s expensive,” said Fort Collins Utilities Energy Services Engineer Norm Weaver.

Weaver said that on average, the rebates might pay for half of the solar panel system and offset roughly half of the energy used in the home. He said that the system could pay for itself in 15 years.

As of right now, people purchase these systems to reduce their environmental impact from energy use.

“Every kilowatt-hour produced offsets one made at a coal or natural gas facility,” Weaver said.

Carrico, who applied for the rebate last year, received $3,500 in rebates and $5,700 in Federal tax benefits. After these rebates, he paid $9,800 for his $19,000 system.

Like others who have made this investment, Carrico was motivated by the positive impact a solar system can have on the environment.

“I definitely believe climate change is an issue that will define this century,” Carrico said. “We need to move away from burning fossil fuels.”

Carrico said that the average home uses about 700 to 800 kilowatt-hours a month and with his solar panels, his home uses that in an entire year. He said that his input is just a small step toward making a difference.

“It will take a lot of people making individual efforts to maximize the impact,” Carrico said. “I thought I could take a step in the right direction.”

Buyers of these expensive solar systems are also motivated by what their investment could hold for the future.

Weaver said that in the future, the price of general electric could be fewer than that of solar electric.

He added that since the program began in 2008, he has seen growth in the number of people interested. In the first two years, the city saw 20 people apply and expect that many this year alone.

This technology, however, may not be in the price range for most students, even if they do own their own homes.

“At this point it’s a still a stretch for most people,” Carrico said. “It would take a pretty savvy student to make it work.”

Although actually buying a solar panel system was too expensive for most students, they still respected the effort made by the city to reduce energy used.

“If it’s cutting down fossil fuels, I think in the long run it will help,” said junior criminology major Kelly Knight.

Students who can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on solar energy can work on reducing their own energy usage and support green energy efforts through their own utilities, Carrico said.

Staff writer Matt Miller can be reached at news@collegian.com.

  • Fort Collins Utilities will be accepting applications for rebates on solar panel systems through Feb. 26
  • Rebates: up to $4,500 for homes and up to $15,000 for businesses
  • How to get a rebate: applications are available online at http://fcgov.com/solar-rebates
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