Going solar? New program offers discounts to SLC homeowners ready to make the switch

Solar panels cover the garage of a Salt Lake City home on Nov. 2, 2020. Salt Lake City announced a new program offering discount solar options for up to 50 eligible homeowners in the city.

Solar panels cover the garage of a Salt Lake City home on Nov. 2, 2020. Salt Lake City announced a new program offering discount solar options for up to 50 eligible homeowners in the city. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A new program will allow a few dozen single-family homeowners in Utah's capital city cheaper access to solar power through limited-time discounts.

Salt Lake City launched Solar Salt Lake on Thursday, which offers "discounted bulk purchase" pricing for up to 50 residents looking to switch to solar energy. The city is partnering with Utah-based Gardner Energy to install the solar panels.

"Solar Salt Lake is about streamlining resident access to rooftop solar," Debbie Lyons, the director of Salt Lake City's sustainability department, said in a statement Thursday.

She notes that solar panels have been installed at over a dozen city buildings over the past decade. It has since helped reduced carbon emissions and also saved money on utility bills.

"By launching Solar Salt Lake, the city hopes to enable more residents to take advantage of the same financial and environmental benefits solar has to offer," she added.

Residents can sign up for the program from now through Sept. 2. Those who qualify for the program can choose to receive a free remote assessment, where an initial financial analysis will be given to the homeowner. The city will also hold an online workshop on Aug. 11, as well as in-person workshops at the Salt Lake City Library on Aug. 18 and Aug. 27 to answer questions residents have.

If a resident chooses to go further, they can schedule an in-person home assessment, a service that is also free for the homeowner. There, they will receive a "detailed, custom" solar proposal. Residents who receive this will have until Sept. 16 to sign a contract; a Gardner Energy installer will then complete all necessary engineering, permitting and design work to finish the project.

All of the installations are expected to be completed by the end of the year. City officials said applicants will be able to use federal tax credits on top of the discounts the program offers.

It wasn't immediately clear how much the program will save residents. The Salt Lake Solar website explains that the cost and savings will vary from home to home since solar is a "custom product." Current power consumption, a home's roof pitch and azimuth, as well as shading all factor into the final cost and energy savings.

The site also notes that Rocky Mountain Power recently paid out customers 4.462 cents per kilowatt-hour generated in the winter and 5.160 cents per kilowatt-hour generated in the summer in reimbursements.

The solar energy company EnergySage reports that a 5-kilowatt system typically costs between $11,600 and $15,700 in Salt Lake County, this year, but that same system would generate between $20,415 to $27,620 in net savings over a 20-year span, meaning it has a payback period of about 8 to 11 years. Of course, that's not factoring in discounts or a system that's smaller or larger than 5 kilowatts.

The program itself connects back to Salt Lake City's goal to switch all of the city's electricity needs to 100% renewable energy by 2030, says Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. The city is signed up to be a customer of the Elektron Solar Project, an 80-megawatt solar farm northwest of Grantsville in Tooele County, which is expected to open next year. The project also goes toward the city's 2030 goal.

"We're working on the utility scale with our Community Renewable Energy Program, but rooftop solar still plays a critical role in meeting our resiliency, climate and economic goals," she said in a statement. "This is another important way that Salt Lake City is taking action to mitigate climate change and improve air quality."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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