Boise, — One hundred and nine families in southern Idaho have installed rooftop solar panels in the last 18 months through the Solarize the Valley program. This is one sign that interest in solar energy is growing quickly in the Gem State. Another is that statewide the number of solar installations has doubled.
Snake River Alliance launched the Solarize the Valley project last year to educate people and to install at least 650 kilowatts of rooftop solar. The program surpassed its goal and installed 730kW, representing a $2.3 million investment in clean energy. This helped two installation companies, AltEnergy and Bluebird Solar and Light, to hire several more workers.
This flurry of installations spans Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Twin Falls, Emmett, Fruitland, Middleton and Wilder.
Boise homeowner, Jose “Memo” Cordova, is pleased with the results. “One of the main reasons I decided to get solar panels is to lessen my carbon footprint. I’m glad I got solar panels. They’re performing beautifully. I’ve seen a big reduction in my Idaho Power bill and am happy to be saving money, too.”
“I took out a home loan to get my roof replaced, and used part of that to pay for the panels. I think my panels are a long-term investment. I don’t see a downside to any of this.”
Cordova is not alone. The Solarize the Valley program helped 49 families invest $1 million in rooftop solar, in 2016. This year, 60 families signed contracts worth $1.3 million bringing the total to 109 families and $2.3 million.
Recent federal statistics that show the number of customers in Idaho using solar has doubled in the last two years to roughly 1,700. Solar adoption rates still lag behind most other mountain West states. Utah and Nevada each have roughly 26,000 solar installations and even Montana, with just 2/3rds of Idaho’s population has more than 2,000.
Still, Idaho Power has raised concerns and wants to change the net metering program. Net metering allows homeowners to generate some of their own electricity and send excess power back to the grid as credits. Each customer has a special electric meter and is billed for their net energy use.
The Snake River Alliance and other solar advocates have intervened in front of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to support net metering. The Commission is now accepting testimony and is expected to rule on any changes in March, 2018.
The Snake River Alliance is a nonprofit organization with members across Idaho and the country. For 38 years the group has advocated for responsible handling of nuclear waste, energy conservation and clean energy. The Alliance can be reached at: www.snakeriveralliance.org.
Sponsors of Solarize the Valley 2017 included: The Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, Idaho Smart Growth, Idaho U.S. Green Building Council, Conservation Voters for Idaho, Idaho Sierra Club, North End Organic Nursery, League of Women Voters, the Boise Co-op; Idaho Conservation League, the Funky Taco and Idaho Rivers Sports.