Boise couple charges car & home with solar panels through Solarize the Valley program

There is a new national trend that's arrived in the Treasure Valley, one that could ultimately help you save money on your monthly power bill through a program called Solarize the Valley.

Solar energy is already in Idaho. To shed light on the matter, solar energy in the Gem state produced enough juice to power 29,000 homes by the end of 2016.

However, the energy trend can go beyond the solar farms that currently provide part of service for Idaho Power customers. Homeowners in the Treasure Valley can opt to have their own solar panels installed.

"There's several ways to do it and having rooftop panels is just one way," says Wendy Wilson, director of the Snake River Alliance that launched the local campaign. "Right now, the time has come where the price has come down enough, and we figured out a way to make it pretty easy for a lot of people to do it."

Wilson says renters can also reap the benefits of the energy source by purchasing solar shares through Idaho Power.

The Solarize the Valley program is in its second year in the Treasure Valley. New in 2017 is the option to include a hook up for an electrical vehicle. Take the Bellan's for example.

"We were able to start powering our car with our roof with the sun, and it's pretty fun to whiz by a gas station and never have to go into one," says Patti Bellan.

The couple use their electrical car to get around town. It just has to be recharged.

And, if you're wondering how the home system works on a cloudy day, Patti's husband, Phil, explains.

"You don't have to worry about the sun not shining because you're not off the grid," he says. "You pay $5 a month to be on the grid."

Your old meter is swapped out with a gauge that moves in both directions. While it is an initial investment, the Bellans say they're already getting a credit on their monthly bill. They had 18 panels installed and expect the system to pay for itself in eight years.

Their new endeavor began mid-February and is something that has sparked the interest of others in the neighborhood to follow suit.

"Now there's two houses in a row," Patti Bellan says. "So, maybe we'll get the whole block."

You can learn more about the program at a workshop this week that starts at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Boise Coop at the Village at Meridian. On June 13, a workshop will be held in Boise at the Riverstone School and starts at 6:30 p.m.

Anyone wanting to sign up for a free assessment needs to do so by July 31 by visiting http://solarizethevalley.org.

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