Boulder County is joining with Adams and Denver counties to offer residents the opportunity to purchase discounted home solar systems and electric vehicles.
The Solar Benefits Colorado program, launched this week, offers homeowners an estimated 15 percent discount on solar rooftop systems and roughly $8,300 off the cost of a Nissan Leaf, according to Brad Smith, a sustainability specialist for Boulder County.
The initiative grew out of a similar program that Boulder and Denver counties offered their employees in 2013, Smith said.
“We wanted to help folks find a more simple, more affordable way of paying for renewable energy,” he said.
The three counties have selected Sunrun Solar, a national solar installer, to provide systems to homeowners and Boulder Nissan to run the discounted car program, Smith said.
According to the county, multiple vendors were vetted before Sunrun and Boulder Nissan were selected.
Nigel Zeid, electric vehicle specialist and sales consultant at Boulder Nissan, said the dealership wanted to participate to get more innovative electric cars on the road.
“People look at $32,000 (the Leaf’s sticker price)and say, ‘That’s a lot.’ We wanted to team up to make this appealing to normal folks,” he said.
Officials at Sunrun could not be reached for comment.
The program, essentially a bulk-discount initiative, isn’t receiving county, state or federal funding. Instead, the counties have negotiated deals with the vendors, who were willing to lower their prices in exchange for winning the business of a larger number of customers, Smith said.
“This offer is great because local governments and employers don’t have to spend any taxpayer dollars. We are simply leveraging our relationships across the Front Range to pool our buying power to lower the price of solar and electric vehicles,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to scale up a program that Boulder County has done on a pilot scale and offer it to a larger population, which will have much greater potential environmental impacts.”
The three-county initiative comes as Colorado continues to be among the national leaders in adopting use of renewable technologies. According to a February report from the Golden-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Colorado ranks seventh in the country for electric vehicle sales per capita, with 0.02 vehicles sold per person. Hawaii ranks No. 1, with 1.03 electric vehicles per person.
Joyce McLaren, an NREL policy analyst specializing in residential solar issues, said she hadn’t heard of a program like this until now. Consumers can purchase either a rooftop system or an electric vehicle, but they’re not required to purchase both if they choose to participate in the program.
Still, McLaren said more people were thinking about electric vehicle purchases in tandem with residential solar because the systems could complement each other.
“It’s great to see lots of different models being used because you’re able to reach a broader audience,” she said.
Smith said the three counties hope the discount program generates an additional 500 residential solar installations by the time the program ends in early November. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, had 25,753 residential rooftop systems in place as of the end of May, according to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
The program hasn’t set a goal for electric vehicle sales.
Consumers have until Sept. 30 to purchase or lease a car and until Oct. 31 to sign up for the solar rooftop program. Solar contracts must be in place by Nov. 8.
Check mygroupenergy.com/colorado for more information.
Jerd Smith: 303-473-1332, firstname.lastname@example.org