Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Solar energy getting more attention of late in Cache Valley

Solar power is growing in popularity in the United States. In response to the U.S. Department of Energy’s
Rooftop Solar Challenge, the Southwest Solar Transformation Initiative was developed, using a grant
secured by Optony Inc., a solar power consulting company. SSTI is an opt-in program for communities in
40 municipalities across four Southwest states.

On Wednesday, the Bear River Associated Governments, or BRAG, hosted a workshop with presenters
from Optony to discuss the opportunities and barriers to installing solar panels in the Cache Valley and
Box Elder areas.

Participants included government representatives and those involved in the solar panel industry.
The workshop included information on the Rooftop Solar Challenge and its four focus areas: local
permitting processes, planning and zoning regulations, education and outreach, and innovative
deployment programs.

Market potential information presented showed that in Logan and North Logan alone, there are at least
4,805 solar viable residences. The barriers to installing solar at these homes, however, can be complex
and prohibitive.

Education is also critical in order to drum up interest in solar power in the first place.

Solar power is currently more expensive than coal power in Cache Valley, said Brian Carver, director of
Community and Economic Development at BRAG, but the price per kilowatt hour is getting lower every
day. Initially, the installation of solar power can run up to $17,000, but incentive programs and various
financing options can make this number more feasible through tax credits and cash rebates. It typically
takes 15 to 20 years for a solar panel to pay itself off and start generating “free” energy, Carve said — an
issue considering that the average homeowner in Cache Valley has lived in their home fewer than seven

The represented cities at the workshop discussed forming a municipal aggregate company.
Tyler Espinoza, a project manager at Optony Inc., explained this as collaborative solar procurement —
cities working together to install many solar panels all at once.

More education is needed at the residential and governmental level before this could be possible, but it’s
an option that would have been unheard of just ten years ago. Herald Journal