Solar United Neighbors has Joined Denver with a Bright Idea

When Stacey Decker’s eight -year -old daughter, Sophie, came home from school one day and asked what the family was doing to reduce its carbon footprint, Decker immediately began researching alternative energy options. , including electric cars and solar panels.

“It’s fun as a parent to be able to be like, ‘Yeah, you’re right. Let’s do it,'” Decker says. The Denver educator and mother of two quickly realized that the cost of solar panels, as well as the difficulties of determining which vendors are trustworthy and which technology is best, means getting an electric The car was the easiest move, and the family bought a Tesla.

Solar energy was still on Decker’s mind, however, when he read about a Solar United Neighbors co-op designed to help people navigate the process of going solar and getting better. rates on the panels, he signed up right away. In 2019, Decker became part of the first Solar United Neighbors solar co-op; so far, 62 people have installed solar panels with the help of that co-op.

The organization, which works nationwide, has just been announced a new solar co-op, this one in partnership with the City of Denver. The co-op will once again offer assistance with the research process and help Denver homeowners and small businesses save money by arranging bulk pricing on solar installers.

Prior to this time was a solar equity rebate program, sponsored by the city. Any household less than 80 percent of income in the middle of the area qualifies for a $ 3,000 rebate toward solar installation; those who qualify will have access to a hardship fund for repairs or other unforeseen costs associated with their solar panels. The Denver Office of Nonprofit Engagement also works with Solar United Neighbors to help people take advantage of others city ​​energy-equity programs.

Decker ended up installing 26 solar panels – a particularly large array, he said, because of the direction his home faces and the amount of shade. Typically, people get about half that number. After a citywide tax rebate, the cost to the family was $ 16,000. The federal government offers 26 percent tax rebasa for anyone to install solar panels; those who qualify for the $ 3,000 rebate through the Solar United Neighbors cooperation can stack it on the tax rebate.

Solar panels are as easy to maintain as its previous energy system, Decker says. His house already has two meters, one that measures electricity usage and one that measures the energy created by solar panels.
Decker sometimes watches the solar meter reach the usage meter while he and his children play in the background.

When Xcel come to read the meters, it reduces the difference, charging if the energy generated is less than the energy used and crediting the account if more. So far, the family has only been getting credits, Decker said, and hasn’t paid a single cent since the panels were up and running. That’s especially impressive, since the family uses that energy to charge the electric car and power the whole house.

With an app connected to its solar system, Decker can check the status of the panels. So far, according to the app, the panels installed in 2020 have produced eighteen megawatts of energy, the equivalent of eleven years of refrigerator operation; and have a carbon offset of planting 324 trees. Impressed by the home’s efficiency, the two neighbors turned solar, he said.

Decker remained involved with Solar United Neighbors; he was eager to tell others about the possibilities of solar, particularly with the city’s enhanced involvement.

“We recognize how critical it is to reduce our carbon emissions as quickly as possible, but we also need to make sure we do that in a way that really brings everyone into the community and creates better positive outcomes in life for them, ”Jonathan Rogers, a renewable energy specialist from the Denver Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency, said at a panel on Oct. 5 announcing the new co-op.

People interested in signing up for the program can do so through Solar United Neighbors before November 20.

Beyond saving money, Decker is glad she’s doing something to build a more sustainable future for her daughters, especially given Sophie’s resilience for helping the environment. “It really affects when we hear these messages from our kids of,‘ Hey, why aren’t we doing everything we can? ’” He said.

Sophie’s latest project: examining the family’s eating habits and asking if they should eat less meat to help with their carbon footprint.

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