Yuma asked to accept the Solar Challenge
Currently, fewer than 3 percent of actually do, Antonia “Toni” Bouchard, Arizona state director for Smart Power, told the Yuma City Council during a presentation at Tuesday's worksession.
That's where Smart Power comes in.
Founded in 2002 by several major foundations, Smart Power is the nation's leading nonprofit marketing firm dedicated to promoting clean energy and energy efficiency.
The organization was invited in late 2009 to the state by the Arizona Public Service Co. in an effort to help the utility meet its target of residential consumers using renewable energy, Bouchard explained.
After completing successful pilot projects in Flagstaff and the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix, the organization wants to extend its message to other parts of Arizona, a state that Bouchard believes has the potential to be the solar capital of the nation.
And Yuma has the sunshine to lead the state, if not the nation, in solar power, she said.
It's not clear how many homes in Yuma have solar, either for their water heater or a photovoltaic system, she said. However, she does know that only 70 homes in Yuma had solar power or solar water heaters installed last year.
Three times that activity will be needed to make the goal set by APS to have 5 percent of owner-occupied homes in the city on solar power by 2015, Bouchard said.
Therefore, Yuma is one of 11 communities in Arizona that Smart Power will be working with to boost residential solar installations through the Arizona Solar Challenge, she said.
“I think there's a lot of potential here,” she said, adding that she's encouraged by the fact that a solar system is being installed at Yuma City Hall, the Yuma International Airport recently installed a shade structure/solar system and Arizona Western College's new buildings are solar powered. There also are a number of businesses that have installed solar power.
“Now we want to encourage more residential,” Bouchard said. “It could create a mini industry here ... it could create jobs.”
Smart Power's research has found there are four main barriers to people purchasing solar systems, she said. They are concern about the technology's reliability, unawareness of where and how they can buy it, the perception that “it's too expensive” and fourth, “it's just too confusing.”
The company seeks to overcome those barriers through seeking support among a community's leaders, developing partnerships to engage in grassroots efforts, leveraging media opportunities and reaching out to those who already have solar to serve as solar ambassadors to their friends and neighbors.
“Solar customers are the best advocates for going solar,” Bouchard said.
A solar coach will be available by phone and at community events to help walk residents through the process of going solar. People can also go online for more information at AZSmartPower.org or AZSolarChallenge.com.
As for the perception that solar is too expensive, she said various financial incentives can substantially reduce the investment a homeowner would need to make.
The federal government is offering a 30 percent tax credit until 2016, Arizona offers a one-time $1,000 tax credit and APS offers a rebate on the wattage generated. Homeowners also will realize a savings in their power bill and they can sell any excess power their solar system generates to APS.
“Typically they could save about one-third of the cost,” Bouchard said. It's even possible it could be a neutral or even positive cash flow situation, she added.
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6853.