Snake River Alliance Reboots 'Solarize the Valley' Program 

  • Snake River Alliance/Solarize the Valley
The Snake River Alliance is restarting a program urging Treasure Valley businesses and homeowners to convert to solar energy.

Launched in May 2106, Solarize the Valley exceeded its goal of signing up 250 homeowners for solar power site assessments, ultimately convincing 400 people to opt for assessments. A total of 49 homes were fitted with rooftop solar panels.

In all, the new panels generated 314 kilowatts of electricity and $1 million in local investment, according to the SRA.

This year, Solarize the Valley has upped the ante with a goal of installing enough solar panels to generate more than 350 kW of electricity—translating to nearly 60 home installations.

The popularity of Solarize the Valley, which pairs homeowners with contractors specializing in solar panel installation, stemmed in part from the decreasing cost of the technology. According to SRA Director Wendy Wilson, most payback periods were eight to 12 years, with the quickest return on investment going to the homes with the highest power bills.

"The best paybacks are for people who use the most electricity," she said.

Wilson called the participants who installed solar panels on their homes in the first year of the program "49ers," in part because of the number of installations and also the association of the name with the California Gold Rush. This first cohort, she said, has begun to evangelize solar power to their friends, families and co-workers, leading to a growing number of people signing up for consultations and installations.

"They're really psyched," Wilson said. "It's good to see the pioneers get so excited about it."

Among the participants in Solarize the Valley last year were people who ordered larger solar arrays to power their electric vehicles—enough, Wilson said, to qualify as a trend. SRA will pay close attention to the relationship between homeowners who sign up for estimates on panels and interest in electric cars. If there's a strong correlation, Solarize the Valley may expand in 2018 to include information or promotions relating to electric cars and home battery systems like the Tesla Powerwall.

As in 2016, a series of workshops have been planned for spring and summer 2017 to promote Solarize the Valley. The next event is set to take place at the Boise Co-op Village at Meridian location on Thursday, June 1, from 6:30-8 p.m. Another is scheduled for Tuesday, June 13 at Riverstone International School from 6:30-8 p.m. There, the public can learn about the technology and sign up for free consultations on installing solar panels.
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