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Finding Funding in Unexpected Places

September 14, 2009 - 3:22pm


Here at EERE, we hear a lot of questions from consumers who want to know what they can do to improve their homes, and what money, tax credits, and the like are out there to do that. That's a big topic, and one that we discuss quite a lot. But everyone likes a good story, so I thought today I'd share one from one of my coworkers here at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, called James, who leveraged opportunities from his county and the local utility to fund a brand new solar array and energy efficient water heater.

So here's how he did it!

Up here in Colorado, Boulder County has put together a program called the ClimateSmart Loan Program. This is a self-funded bond—which means it's not funded by taxpayer dollars—that helps arrange financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to residential homes and small businesses in Boulder County. Instead of getting a loan, the fee is attached to the mortgage for the home, and the homeowner or business owner pays the cost off with their monthly mortgage fees.

This is a generally new approach to helping people fund energy-related upgrades. James said that this was the second such program in the country, behind one led by the city of Berkeley, and that, given that it's self-funded and doesn't rely on taxpayer funds, it was "really a model for funding systems throughout the country."

Additionally, Xcel Energy has a Solar Rewards program which includes a rebate of $2 per Watt DC Capacity, which can significantly offset the cost. (According, again, to James, that can pay up to half of one's costs.)

And so, using both these programs at the same time, James had a 5.6 kilowatt solar array and a tankless, high efficiency water heater installed in his home. Now his brand new solar array offsets his home's entire energy usage and, thanks to the two opportunities he found in his county, he is still paying less per month to pay off his home improvements than he was paying for electricity. (And he was sure to mention, given all this, he couldn't be happier with Xcel Energy and Boulder County.)

If you don't live in Boulder County, Colorado, you unfortunately can't take advantage of the ClimateSmart Program, but you should always check what opportunities are available in your state. Each area is different, and the opportunities vary from place to place. But it's worth seeing what funding is available in your area. You never know, after all—you might find a way to fund the upgrade you've been looking for.