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Proud owners

This time last year we revealed Colorado’s plans to make solar a real option for residents — (Prez PV-Nuts for Colorado) — and now they’re starting to reap the benefits. Residents in Colorado are getting around 50% back on their solar installations thanks to renewables incentives offered by utility companies.

Mike Harvey’s home in Chaffee County has 16 brand-new solar panels, producing around 3,500W on a sunny day energy that he funnels into the Xcel power grid. In return, Xcel is rebating him $13,900 – about 50% of the cost to install the system. Plus, the company buys power from the panels at $2.50 per watt, reducing Harvey’s monthly energy bill by more than 80%. The system also entitles Harvey to a $2,000 federal tax credit.

“Economically it seems to make sense,” Harvey said as the panels were installed. “At some point, we’ll pay off our capital investment by paying a lot less in electricity. Plus we have an environmental ethic and we want to do everything we can to reduce our consumptive footprint.”

Installed by former off-gridder, Tim Klco now owner of Peak Solar Designs the system is just the solar panels wired together, plugged into a converter and connected to a standard Xcel Energy meter. Through the net metering provision, Harvey can now treat the main energy grid as a bank.

“During the day, when they are out, they’ll be putting power in,” Klco explained. “At night, when they are using power, they’ll be taking it out.”

Klco is hoping more locals take advantage of the new renewable energy laws. He formerly lived in an off-grid solar panel house near Cotopaxi. Last year, he moved to Salida and started Peak Solar Designs to be on the cutting edge of what he and Governor Ritter call “the new energy economy.

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“These new rebates have stirred the market and made it attractive for people to do it on the grid,” Klco said, adding that Chaffee County is an ideal place to capture solar energy.

“We have so much sun here and we have people with imagination and a general desire to do the right thing.”

For Harvey, the solar panels are a source of pride. He said he knows he is not only energizing his own house with a clean energy source, but is supplying the whole system, helping Xcel reach its renewable energy goals.

“I just think it’s cool to have this mini power plant sitting on top of my roof,” Harvey said.

In 2004, Colorado voters passed Amendment 37, requiring large utility companies to get 10% of their energy from renewable sources.

As a result, Xcel created the Solar Rewards program, offering an up-front rebate for homeowners wanting to install solar systems.

This spring, Governor Bill Ritter is expected to sign into law a bill doubling the renewable requirement to 20% for large utility companies taking the rural electric association requirement to 10% by 2020.

Another bill that passed from the state House of Representatives two weeks ago would standardize the net metering system allowing home-based renewable energy systems to interact with the grid.

Xcel spokeswoman Ethnie Grove said the company will achieve the 10% renewable requirement by the end of the year that’s three years earlier than voters mandated.

Xcel has paid $9.4 million in rebates and credits since the requirement was enacted.

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“We are confident we can achieve the 20% standard by 2020,” she said.

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