Solar users hope more Utahns will make the switch

Published: Saturday, July 27 2013 8:40 p.m. MDT

Jason Shulz and Eric Johnson check out a solar cooker during the Utah Solar Energy Association's third annual Solar Day Saturday, July 27, 2013 at Liberty Park.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The crowd at Salt Lake Solar Day was small, but Denise and Mark Davis feel sure this is only the beginning of Utahns turning to solar alternatives for their homes.

"Our power bill last month was $7," Denise Davis said.

The bill has been low all summer for their 3,000-square-foot home, and they are earning credits with Rocky Mountain Power that will lower their bill in the winter. The couple put solar panels on their South Jordan home in January, after purchasing them last year through a community cooperative.

They estimate the transition will be paid off in about seven years. But in addition to the financial benefits, the Davis family was looking for a way to reduce their impact on the environment.

"We had been investigating for probably eight years," Denise Davis said. Tax incentives, power company rebates and falling prices finally pushed them to make the switch.

The couple wandered happily between the 15 booths advertising residential solar options, solar cooking and water heating, and support for solar start up businesses. Mark Davis was especially interested in an electric truck from VIA Motors.

"I think it's great technology," he said. "It's kind of the next generation. I'm a guy that likes to have a truck, and this is the kind of truck I would like to have."

Mark Davis said he was excited to hear the electric truck boasts up to 100 MPG, while the pickup he drives now averages about 16 MPG.

A live band kept the event festive, despite cloudy skies. A PA system for the band's entire set, as well as remarks from various presenters, was powered by a large solar panel and portable power system from Creative Energies.

Three hours into the event, batteries on the solar trailer were still at 80 percent, they reported.

"We have the sun up there, let's take advantage of it," said Dave Mullins of SolarTek Solutions, taking the stage between songs. "Let's get something up on your roof and get you some free money!"

As the crowd trickled through, Alpenglow Solar representative Patrick Fabian said he met with all kinds of visitors — some who have spent years planning their switch to solar, and others who are just learning about energy alternatives.

Most people who stopped to talk to the Utah company were surprised to see that the cost of a solar switch is dropping, Fabian said.

"I think people have this idea in their head that this technology is $40,000 or $50,000 for a residential install, and we have come a long way from those numbers," Fabian said.

A typical residential install now costs between $12,000 and $20,000, Fabian estimated, and with available federal and state tax credits, the amount goes down even more. Bulk purchasing programs, like Summit Community Solar, are also making the switch more affordable.

"The more people that sign up within Summit County and go solar, the cheaper everyone's system become," Fabian said. "It really brings a great community feel to it, and helps people to go solar."

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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