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Solar Friendly says C’dale is just that

By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Solar Friendly Communities has awarded the town of Carbondale a Silver Level certification for adopting “best practices” designed to make it faster, easier and more affordable for residents to go solar.

“Carbondale has long been a solar leader…,” said Rebecca Cantwell, senior program director for Solar Friendly Communities.

Solar Friendly Communities is led by the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, according to SFC’s website. Other entities involved with Solar Friendly Communities include the American Solar Energy Society and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

“Carbondale becomes the first community on the Western Slope to earn the valuable designation, and the eighth community in Colorado since the program began late last year,” said Cantwell.

Carbondale is being recognized for earning 940 points out of a possible 1,600 to qualify for Silver Level recognition. Cantwell said the town has worked on a variety of ways to make solar permitting smoother including: posting requirements in an online checklist, capping fees at $100 per PV or solar thermal permit, and encouraging solar energy in town planning documents.

“Carbondale is honored to receive recognition for our efforts in promoting energy generation through solar,’’ said Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot. “We have worked hard to incentivize and promote carbon reducing measures such as solar through our programs and codes. Our strong local solar businesses allow our citizens to accomplish sustainable projects that benefit the individual, our town and beyond. Carbondale will continue to be a leader in renewable energy and leave a lasting legacy for the next generation.”

Solar Friendly Communities works to advance reforms to solar permitting, inspection and finance as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative to drive down the costs of solar energy, according to the SFC website. The program uses a roadmap of 12 Best Practices and rewards communities for endorsing these practices.

Carbondale joins the city and county of Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, Fort Collins, Arvada, Nederland and Boulder County in earning Solar Friendly Communities certification.

While the costs of solar panels have dropped dramatically in recent years, the “soft costs’’ of solar including permitting and inspection now account for up to 60 percent of the total price, according to SFC.

“By adopting policies that cut the time required to get rooftop solar systems installed, Carbondale is helping to cut the cost of the systems and making solar more affordable. With interest in solar growing, the streamlined processes will also help the town prepare for greater solar energy demand,” said a press release.

Carbondale residents have numerous programs to help them go solar. The Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) has rebates available for residents throughout the Roaring Fork Valley to advance solar energy throughout the community. CORE offers rebates of $0.50/kWh up to $3,000 for solar photovoltaics and $1,500 per panel, and up to $6,000 for solar thermal. In addition, they offer a low-interest loan to help mitigate the upfront costs of solar energy.

California-based Optony, part of a Rooftop Solar Challenge team, helped Carbondale work on its policies and submit its application for SFC’s certification process.

The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association was established in 1989 and has more than 400 members. According to the mission statement on its website, it “ … works to remove barriers, highlight emerging trends, advance policy and improve public outreach and education across the state.”

The Colorado association is part of the national Solar Energy Industries Association, and represents and leads a wide range of solar-related businesses including: manufacturers, distributors, dealers, installers, integrators, financiers, utilities, entrepreneurs, educators and others. COSEIA is governed by a nine-member board of directors that oversees the organization’s strategic priorities, budget and bylaws.

Solar Friendly Communities and COSEIA operate out of the same office at 1536 Wynkoop St. in Denver.