Energy providers offer different incentives for solar

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- One thing we love about our state is the more than 300 days of sunshine each year. While basking in the light is an added bonus, for some, the sun also brings an opportunity to save money.

Experts say in the last four years, the cost of solar has decreased by close to 50 percent, making it appealing to many.

Still, they caution residents to do their research prior to committing to solar, and to discuss financing options with the appropriate power company to see if the savings are worth it.

It started out as a good deed, but now, solar is providing extra incentives to John Bruce and his wife.

"Always had some concern about our environment and climate change," the former high school science teacher said. “We did get some carbon credits for doing this, and there were some rebates from the government."

Bruce installed solar panels on his home nine months ago and is paid each month for the extra electricity his house produces.

"It’s wonderful to have a little bit come back each month," he said.

Like other Xcel Energy customers with solar, Bruce is able to utilize a solar bank paid by Xcel's two percent surcharge on all bills.

"If you overproduce during the year, you have the option of selling the power back to the utility or putting it into a solar bank for a future use," Syndicated Solar regional manager Harold Warth said.

Other utility companies like Grand Valley Power purchase power wholesale from Xcel Energy. Due to budget constraints, it can no longer offer customers similar rebates for solar use.

"We do not have an extra charge on our bills for rebates," Grand Valley Power spokesperson Bill Byers said.

Byers says GVP services around 18,000 customers. Just under 100 of those customers use solar energy.

"Our customers really support renewables. The downside is they support renewables, but they really don't want to subsidize having to help someone else pay to put solar or some type of distributive generation on somebody else's property," he said.

Still, GVP is trying to give those interested in solar an option. The company has a solar farm off of I-70 and customers are able to lease one of the 88 panels for 25 years.

"Just as if it was on their house, they get credit each month for that energy that's generated," Byers said.

Solar experts say despite the differences in companies, solar can still provide residents major savings and can prove to be a smart investment.

"Is it logistically possible to do it on your home and property, and is it economically feasible for your situation?" Warth questioned.

Experts say residents should do the research and make sure they fully understand their individual savings before signing a contract.

"We use just the right amount of electricity to make it work well," Bruce said.

Some solar systems can also tell the homeowner how much carbon dioxide they're preventing from going into the atmosphere. In the case of the Bruce residence, they've saved over 57,000 pounds of CO2 in the past nine months.

Solar energy is continuing to grow. The solar energy industries association reports 2012 was a record year for the industry.

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