become solar? The new program offers discounts for SLC homeowners willing to make the switch

Solar panels cover the garage of a home in Salt Lake City on November 2, 2020. Salt Lake City announced a new program that offers discounted solar options for up to 50 eligible homeowners in the city. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY – A new program will give dozens of single-family homeowners in the Utah capital cheaper access to solar energy through time-limited rebates.

Salt Lake City Thursday launched Solar Salt Lake, which offers “discounted bulk purchase prices” to up to 50 residents who want to switch to solar power. The city is working with Utah’s Gardner Energy to install the solar panels.

“Solar Salt Lake is about optimizing residents’ access to rooftop solar arrays,” Debbie Lyons, director of Salt Lake City’s sustainability department, said in a statement Thursday.

She notes that over a dozen city buildings have had solar panels installed in the past decade. Since then, it has helped reduce carbon emissions and also saved money on utility bills.

“By launching Solar Salt Lake, the city hopes to enable more residents to take advantage of the same financial and environmental benefits that solar has to offer,” she added.

Residents can enroll in the program from now through September 2. Those who qualify for the program may elect to have a free remote assessment where an initial financial analysis is presented to the homeowner. The city will also host an online workshop on August 11 and in-person workshops at the Salt Lake City Library on August 18 and 27 to answer residents’ questions.

If a resident wants to go further, they can arrange for a personal home appraisal, a service that is also free to the homeowner. There you will receive a “detailed, individual” solar offer. Residents who receive these have until September 16 to sign a contract; A Gardner Energy installer will then perform all the necessary engineering, permitting and design work to complete the project.

All installations should be completed by the end of the year. City officials said applicants could take advantage of federal tax credits in addition to the rebates the program offers.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much the program will save residents. Salt Lake Solar’s website explains that because solar is a “custom product,” costs and savings will vary from house to house. A home’s current power usage, roof pitch and azimuth, and shading all factor into the ultimate cost and energy savings.

The website also notes that Rocky Mountain Power recently paid customers 4,462 cents per kilowatt hour generated in the winter and 5,160 cents per kilowatt hour generated in the summer in reimbursements.

Solar energy company EnergySage reports that a 5-kilowatt system typically costs between $11,600 and $15,700 in Salt Lake County this year, but the same system would generate between $20,415 and $27,620 in net savings over 20 years, which means it has a payback period of around 8 to 11 years. Of course without discounts or a system smaller or larger than 5 kilowatts.

The program itself ties into Salt Lake City’s goal of converting all of the city’s electricity needs to 100% renewable energy by 2030, says Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. The city is committed as a customer of the Elektron Solar Project, an 80-megawatt solar farm northwest of Grantsville in Tooele County that is expected to open next year. The project also contributes to the city’s 2030 goal.

“We are operating at the utility level with our Community Renewable Energy Program, but rooftop solar systems still play a critical role in achieving our resilience, climate and economic goals,” she said in a statement. “This is another important way Salt Lake City is taking action to mitigate climate change and improve air quality.”

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter covering general news, nature, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant next to Rochester, New York.

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