A group-purchasing program has been formed to reduce the cost of solar-powered electricity in the Wood River Valley.

    Solarize Blaine, launched by the Sun Valley Institute for Resilience, is modeled on similar initiatives around the country and is the first in Idaho, the institute stated in a news release.

    The institute will host a free educational event for the public to learn more on Thursday, March 31, from 6–7:30 p.m. at the Community Library in Ketchum.

    “Solar prices have already come down 80 percent in the last five years, and our program has negotiated prices that are as much as 20 percent below that, but time is of the essence,” said Aimée Christensen, the institute’s executive director. “We’re using a tiered pricing structure so that the price for everyone in Blaine County continues to drop as more people sign on to the program.”

    To get the discounted pricing, contracts must be signed before June 30.

    The institute has partnered with local companies Sagebrush Solar and Site Based Energy for purchase and installment of the systems, as well as with Boise-based Alt Energy for commercial installations.

    The institute stated that Solarize Blaine has arranged competitive financing through local banks. A financing expert and the selected solar installers will answer questions and go over the details of solar power, including tax incentives, permitting and local financing options, at the March 31 event.

    Anyone can get started by filling out a solar assessment form at www.bit.ly/1TalzM7. The form should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, the institute stated, and helps the institute to understand what kind of solar system makes sense for each home. Within five business days of filling out the form, a local installer will call to schedule a time to come to the home and talk with the owner about solar power.

    Installation of solar power is expected to provide long-term financial savings and reduce environmental impacts. According to the institute, more than 35 percent of Blaine County’s electricity comes from out-of-state coal-fired power plants.

    Solarize Blaine Program Director Katie Bray said that under the prices expected to be available under the program, payback time for purchase of a residential solar system in the Wood River Valley should be about 12 to 15 years. However, she said that can vary considerably depending on individual situations.

    Bray said payback time for small businesses is faster, and can be in the four- to eight-year range.

    “For them, solar can really save a lot of money,” she said.

    Payback time is accelerated due to a federal tax credit, state tax deduction and grants for small businesses.

    Bray said the payback times were computed by a consultant in San Francisco using a complex model that includes loss of investment income due to the capital expenditure as well as maintenance costs and likely changes in Idaho Power rates.

    “We want to make sure that customers are getting the real information,” she said.

    “Our big message at this point is that our program is super unique and is a big benefit to the community,” she added. “Even if you don’t think solar will work for you, why not sign up and get the info? We just want people to explore it.”

Email the writer: gmoore@mtexpress.com

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