Home Energy conservation Summit County Homeowners Are Making a Difference with the Solarize Summit Program

Summit County Homeowners Are Making a Difference with the Solarize Summit Program

Workers install solar panels on a roof in Summit County.
High Country Conservation Center / Courtesy Photo

Since its inception in 2019, Solarize Summit has helped bring solar power to over 160 homes in Summit County.

The program, which began as part of the county’s climate action plan, incentivizes businesses and homeowners to switch to solar power by signing up for rebates with energy providers and local governments. Over the past four years, owners have received a total of $226,000 in rebates, according to a press release from the High Country Conservation Center.

This year, home and business owners can receive up to $1,800, with $300 coming from Active Energy Solars, an Eagle County-based solar installer. The remaining $1,500 comes from the governments of Breckenridge, Frisco or Summit County. Homeowners can start enrolling in the program, which requires contracts to be signed by May 31 to be eligible for discounts.

The program has become a crucial part of bringing solar power to the top, said Jess Hoover, director of climate action at the conservation center. In total, the 160 residents who took advantage of the program produced more than 1 megawatt of solar power, more than the two solar farms in Breckenridge can produce together.

The community doesn’t have a lot of space for solar farms, which allow people to be part of a solar grid without installing panels on their homes, so it’s up to homeowners to contribute to the future of the solar power in Summit County, Hoover said.

“The more people who put solar on their roofs, the more we don’t have to worry about finding space for a community solar garden,” she said.

Each year, the conservation center hosts the program with the Summit Climate Action Collaborative from March to May. The goal is to eventually reduce Summit County’s carbon footprint. Electricity plays a major role in this footprint, contributing about 23% of the county’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“For people who have the means, the roof space and a good angle to switch to solar power, we wanted to create a program that would make it easier for them,” Hoover said.

This year, the governments of Breckenridge, Frisco and Summit County purchased a total of 55 sheds for the program. Of those 55, 20 belong to the city of Breckenridge, 25 belong to the Summit County government and 10 belong to the city of Frisco, Hoover said.

In a press release, Jessie Burley, Breckenridge’s sustainability coordinator, said the town was thrilled to be part of the program again this year.

“Seeing physical systems continue to be installed helps create a community snowball effect,” she said.

Solar power has many benefits in addition to contributing to climate change, Hoover said. One of the main advantages is financial savings. Some homeowners have successfully reduced their electric bills to $0, Hoover said.

Solar energy also helps the whole community by contributing to the Xcel Energy network. When Xcel goes to build more renewable energy, it doesn’t need to take up more space and resources because homeowners are already generating that energy on their own, Hoover said.

Although the program provides a financial break for homeowners, installing solar is still an expensive endeavor that is out of reach for many homeowners. According to the conservation center, it can cost between $9,000 and $50,000 before rebates for people to install solar panels on their homes.

Many homeowners can’t afford it, and many people don’t live in homes they own. Hoover said the conservation center is working on strategies to improve solar energy equity.

“We are exploring how to make solar energy more accessible to everyone in the community,” she said.

People can register for the Solarize Summit program by visiting HighCountryConservation.org.