COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — After retiring from Air Force, engineer Jim Riggins and his wife built their dream home in Monument. That dream is saving energy.
"It's called a net-zero energy home, we produce all of the energy through solar," Riggins said.
The sun powers the family's appliances and keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It heats their water and charges their electric vehicles.
"It started by growing up and getting my driver's license during the Arab oil embargo, in the early 1970s, and getting my license and immediately waiting in line for gasoline."
Riggins is the chairman of the Southeast Colorado Renewable Energy Society (SECRES.) While he personally takes energy saving to the max, he says there's never been a better time for other homeowners in Colorado Springs to save on solar.
Bryce Carter, the Colorado Program Director for Solar United Neighbors, explained that members can join for free with no obligation to buy. If they do, they can get a group rate on their solar projects.
"It is a member-driven process, we're vendor-neutral," Carter said. "So, we solicit bids and receive them from solar installers and our members review the pricing, the equipment, the warranties."
The vendor for the Colorado Springs co-op is Peak View Solar. While installation costs vary based on how much electricity you use, owner and treasurer Nancy Brodhagen said that a good ballpark estimate is about a 10 percent savings overall on installation.
That discount comes in addition to the $0.10 per watt rebate offered by Colorado Springs Utilities on new solar installation, and the Federal ITC solar tax credit which lets taxpayers deduct up to 26 percent of the cost of a solar project from their tax debt.
Brodhagen said her company doesn't have a commissioned sales staff and that they're able to keep their installation costs competitive by lowering overhead expenses. Her hope is that the co-op members who choose to have solar installed will share their experience with neighbors.
"We're a small company," she said. "So, we don't have a lot of advertising and we don't go door-to-door and we don't make telephone sales. So, the majority of our sales come from word of mouth."
While there is no cost to join the co-op, there is a time limit. Solar United Neighbors will stop accepting new members on September 12.