Tom Smart, Deseret News
Rooftop of The Leonardo covered with photovoltaic panels as mayors of Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Midvale, Park City and West Valley City, representing the Wasatch Solar Challenge Team, formally launch efforts to lower the cost and simplify the process for residential and commercial solar energy projects April 10, 2012, in Salt Lake City. This team hopes to expand and transform Utah's solar photovoltaic market by simplifying the process of installing solar energy and significantly bringing down the cost of solar resulting in a widespread "solar-friendly" business environment in Utah.

PARK CITY — Summit County residents have launched a community-led initiative to get homeowners to tap into solar power, getting a contractor on board who will shave the price on a bulk purchase.

An event to highlight the effort and share information is slated for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Drive.

The effort of Summit County Solar is a project of Utah Clean Energy but came about because of interest from residents who wanted to go solar.

Lindsay Walsh, a volunteer member of the project's steering committee, said she got involved because she is interested in supporting a "sustainable future" that can start in one's own backyard.

“A bulk-purchase community model is an excellent solution to reduce cost barriers and make it easier for people to adopt solar. I am excited about the prospects of this project and its potential impact," she said.

Sara Baldwin, senior policy analyst with Utah Clean Energy, said a bulk purchase of solar drives down costs for participants.

The lowest price tier would kick in with at least 150 kilowatt-hours installed capacity — or about 37 homes. She noted that the similar solar effort in Salt Lake County had the same threshold and far surpassed it.

"Our perspective is the sky is the limit," she said. "We'd like to see as much solar installed as possible."

The benefit of a community installation effort, she added, is that it accomplishes several goals.

“We know that people want clean, inexhaustible solar energy for their homes, but they are often deterred by the cost and complexity,” she said. "The highly successful community solar model overcomes those barriers and, most importantly, puts more solar on more rooftops, which brings economic and environmental benefits to the entire community.”

A home with four kilowatts of solar-installed power saves a homeowner $60 a month or $720 per year.

The program, supported by Park City and Summit County governments, is available to all Summit County residents. Those interested can take a solar survey to evaluate the feasibility of installing solar on rooftops. The survey is available through Aug. 12 and involves no financial commitment with the contractor, Alpenglow Solar. The deadline for any contracts to be initiated is Sept. 24.

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