In early March 2021, Garfield Clean Energy (GCE) launched the Solarize Garfield County (Solarize) initiative, aimed at increasing the number of homes and businesses in the county with photovoltaic power arrays. One year later, GCE announced a new campaign, ReEnergize Garfield County (ReEnergize), whose purpose is to improve the energy efficiency of homes in the county.
GCE is a collaboration among the county, the six municipalities between Parachute and Carbondale, Colorado Mountain College and Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. It is managed by Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), a nonprofit consulting firm in Carbondale.
As reported in The Sopris Sun last July, the Solarize initiative was a runaway success, with customer response greatly exceeding initial expectations. A total of 110 solar arrays were ordered, for a generating capacity of 858 kilowatts. In addition, 27 customers had battery backup units installed, providing a total of about 580 kilowatts of storage capacity.
According to Rich Clubine, vice president of Avon-based Active Energies (the company contracted to do the installations), all but a handful of projects were completed by the end of 2021. Of those only “one or two” are left to finish — in one case the barn on which the solar panels were to be installed burned down and needed to be rebuilt.
Overall, Clubine was very pleased with the outcome of the program. “This was the biggest event ever” of the state’s various Solarize programs to date (including in Summit, Mesa and, in 2022, Eagle counties). He continued, “This was a very challenging year,” noting the greatly increased workload and the many closures of Glenwood Canyon that hampered his crews getting here from Avon. “It tested the limits of us as a company, [but] we adapted. I’m super proud of our team.”
Clubine was also highly complementary of CLEER. “I’m incredibly proud of our partnership with CLEER and Garfield County [and] feel blessed to be part of [the Solarize project].” He was especially pleased with the county’s rebate program, saying, “I’m super happy that [CLEER and the county] followed through and followed through again,” by twice increasing the number of rebates available for Xcel Energy customers.
CLEER was also pleased with last year’s results. Maisa Metcalf, the organization’s director of programs and services, stated that Solarize “went really well from our point of view,” and that, according to a survey CLEER conducted at the end of the program, most people were “very happy” with the installer. She did note that the main “poor experience” described was from four or five customers who said that “communication was not great with Active Energies.”
Despite the success of last year’s program, CLEER decided to go in a different direction in 2022. In a Feb. 21 press release it announced the ReEnergize program, aimed at helping “low- and moderate-income households lower their utility bills and make their homes healthier and more comfortable.”
Using a $150,000 grant from the county, CLEER will provide rebates to cover upgrades in household energy efficiency, such as insulation, weather stripping, Energy Star appliances and new windows. As Metcalf explained, “One of the reasons we decided not to do Solarize again was because many of the homes [where solar panels were installed] weren’t energy efficient.”
The ReEnergize program will supplement the existing federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and state Colorado’s Affordable Residential Assistance Program (CARE), each of which completely covers upgrades for households earning up to 60% and 80% of area median income, respectively. The ReEnergize program will extend assistance to more middle-income families, offering rebates of up to $5,000 for households between 80% and 100% of median income and $3,000 for those between 100% and 120% ($105,960 being the maximum income for a family of four in Garfield County).
Each qualifying applicant will first get a free energy assessment that will prioritize the measures that can be taken to improve a home’s efficiency. In addition to helping pay for efficiency improvements, ReEnergize funds can be used for costs not covered by WAP and CARE, such as upgrades to electrical systems or safety features like remediation of carbon dioxide leaks and mold.
CLEER kicked off the program during the first week of March by hosting drop-in sessions at the six Garfield County Library branches. “The first week was extremely successful,” said Metcalf. “We got 15 qualified applicants for WAP, 5 for CARE and 11 more for ReEnergize.” She continued, “We really want to make it as easy as possible for people to get the maximum financial aid they qualify for. That’s why we’re providing a one-stop-shop experience — just apply to ReEnergize and we’ll get you put into the program that’s right for you.” She did note that ReEnergize funds are limited and available “first-come, first-served.”
For more information, see http://garfieldcleanenergy.org/reenergize/ or contact CLEER at 970-704-9200.