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What Businesses Should Know About Going Solar

There are a number of climate, economic and social benefits to choosing solar


The solar movement is hitting residents and businesses all across Colorado. Not only is it a good way for businesses to prove their commitment to climate and environmental consciousness and improve their energy resiliency, but there are also a number of economic benefits for companies.

One of the biggest misconceptions that individuals and businesses have about solar, according to Bryce Carter, the Colorado program director for Solar United Neighbors, is “simply how far the technology has advanced in just the last ten years, both in terms of cost, which has come down rapidly, and also the efficiency that these panels are able to produce has grown significantly,” he says. “There’s definitely an urgency to take advantage of the opportunity now for sure.”

Solar United Neighbors recently started building its presence in Colorado. The organization facilitates the creation of solar co-ops focused on the bulk purchasing power of distributed solar, as well as creates educational programming for businesses interested in solar energy.

Solar United Neighborhoods first came to Colorado in January with the launch of a co-op in Fort Collins following in March. It now has co-ops in Yampa Valley and one that recently launched in Denver. Aside from businesses, the organization has a number of municipality members including Craig, Hayden and Steamboat Springs.

Evaluating and Implementing Solar

Every business has different demands when it comes to energy. So, the first step is understanding what that demand is. Carter recommends taking a close look at your energy bills for a whole year, which will be essential when you complete an assessment with a solar installer. This will help you determine your offset.

Next, he says, is to determine what your goal is with solar. Do you want to offset a portion of your energy consumption? Or, do you want to completely go off the grid?

Working with a co-op or an installer will also help you evaluate your structure, roof and utilities to determine if you’re able to handle the additional capacity. This includes looking at the structure of the roof and the support structure down to the utility, the size and orientation of the roof to looking for any shade that could cause an issue.

And, in general, look at the financing mechanisms in place, including the Colorado Property-Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program, and other incentives that your city offers when you implement solar.

Benefits of the Co-Op

“For every co-op that we're building, we want to build learning community around solar,” Carter says. “When everyone goes solar together there are economies of scale and we do see cost-savings come with that.”

These cost savings are for both the solar installer and the company undergoing the installation.

“It makes it more efficient for the installer to have, not only the equipment but also qualified leads of folks that know what they're looking at and what they're getting into,” Carter says. “Often times, each lead for a solar installer can cost thousands of dollars, and so through the streamlining those are savings that can be passed on directly to the consumer.”

According to Carter, each co-op facilitates $850,000 of private investment in regional solar companies. “That bumps even the local solar market in general, so even if they don't go for a co-op, a lot more people are informed and might go with another installer that is not participating, and with that obviously comes with additional jobs and the energy savings,” he adds.

Launching a co-op, the overhead is around $20,000, according to Carter. To launch in Fort Collins, the organization received a grant from Innovate Fort Collins, which is also helping Solar United launch statewide. In Yampa Valley, it received an individual donation of 30,000. Some of the things that Solar United co-ops help with, aside from cost, is evaluating whether solar is a good fit for businesses.

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Ali Longwell

Ali Longwell is the digital editor at ColoradoBiz. She has also written for SDxCentral, a B2B online technology publication, as well as Denver-area lifestyle magazines 5280, Denver Life Magazine, Avid Lifestyle and more. She can be reached at alongwell@cobizmag.com

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