GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO) The industry is not only booming on the Western Slope, but worldwide. A new study by Colorado Mesa University and the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association show that solar energy is now the single fastest growing energy source in the world. Since 2006, the U.S. solar market has grown by 110% per year. Experts say more affordable options are leading to increased demand.
Solar used to be too expensive for many people, but times have changed. "The availability of the solar lease," says Dr. Lou Villaire with the Grand Valley Solar Center. That's one of the reasons for the huge increase in solar sales. "Now, so many more people can get into solar for their home without outlaying any capital, and immediately begin to save money on their bills," explains Villaire, also a salesman at Atlasta Solar Center in Grand Juncton. Since 2006, more than 1,200 residential and commercial solar electric systems have been installed in the Grand Valley.
"We've had no problems with the panels at all," says Ladonna Ishida.
Ishida bought and installed solar panels on her Orchard Mesa home in 2009 for $26,000, but saved $17,000 in rebates and tax credits. "You see your meter going backwards, and you have a 9 or 10 dollar electric bill, and it's like I can live with that," adds Ishida, who plans to recoup the costs in no time. "We're really energy conscious so we don't have lights on all the time, and don't run computers needlessly, so I think we'll recoup it before 12 years."
Mesa county now represents a 15 million dollar annual solar industry. "We started as a company in 2005 with two people, myself as one of them, and my husband; and we've grown to 20 employees," says Heidi Ihrke, owner of High Noon Solar in Grand Junction.
Now, over a dozen residential and commercial solar systems are being installed in the Grand Valley every week.
"All of this has been very much a collective effort in making a real positive impact on the local economy," says Villaire.
There are currently over a dozen solar companies in the Grand Valley, employing nearly 100 people. Colorado is also among the top five states in solar energy growth. Installing solar panels also makes you eligible for rebates, and state and federal tax credits. However, officials say you'd better hurry, because as demand increases, rebates and tax incentives are decreasing.