Solar Pocatello Tesla

Pocatello residents Linda and Mike Engle have fulfilled one of their bucket list items in that they have a solar powered house that provides enough electricity to also power their Tesla car. Mike Engle is the director of the Solarize Pocatello campaign that’s aimed at installing solar power systems on East Idaho homes.

The Portneuf Resource Council’s campaign to “solarize” local homes concludes at the end of September, and the initiative is on track to double its target number of residences that will be solar powered.

Solarize Pocatello Director Mike Engle says the campaign has already signed 44 contracts to install solar power systems on East Idaho homes, which amounts to system values that total more than $1.4 million.

“The Portneuf Resource Council wanted to be conservative in our target number so we could be successful,” Engle said. “We needed about 20 contracts to pay for the campaign and our target was 30.”

Engle said that 44 homes have already signed contracts to have solar power systems installed via Solarize Pocatello, and considering the campaign still has more than two months left, he believes reaching 60 contracts is definitely possible.

In addition to exceeding its anticipated level of signed contracts, Engle said the Solarize Pocatello campaign has already exceeded Boise’s 2018 Solarize the Valley campaign in system sizes as well as total value and is just a handful of installs away from besting Boise’s 50 solar system installations.

The objective of the Portneuf Resource Council is to promote clean energy and increase the number of solar energy installations in East Idaho, said Engle, adding that local residents have expressed a lot of interest in the council’s Solarize Pocatello program.

”Our volunteer-run program is making a big difference in the adoption of clean, renewable solar energy,” Engle said.

Much of the success of Solarize Pocatello is due to several factors, including high demand, a trusted foundation to lead the way and a reputable installation partner, Intermountain Wind and Solar out of Utah, Engle said.

“There was a ton of pent up interest and perhaps demand for more solar power systems in (East Idaho),” Engle said. “One thing that the Portneuf Resource Council brings to the table with Solarize Pocatello is they are a local, trusted nonprofit that has been doing the homework for the consumers. Our initial request for proposal was pretty detailed and fairly technical, and Intermountain Wind and Solar handily beat out the other seven regional installers.”

Justin Monk, the vice president of sales and operations for Intermountain Wind and Solar, says that he has worked on many solarize campaigns during the past decade-plus. Monk agreed with Engle in that much of Solarize Pocatello’s success revolves around Intermountain Wind and Solar and the Portneuf Resource Council presenting much of the most important information to local residents up front.

“People know they don’t have to go do the shopping because the installer is vetting everything out already, which is awesome,” Monk said. “We have been a part of other community solar programs, and I think this has been by a long shot the most successful. A lot of that comes from the forethought, planning and execution of the Portneuf Resource Council and the fact they have taken the responsibility of getting the word out.”

Monk added, “We have seen a great marriage between the groups, but I would really put it on the Portneuf Resource Council for being the true game changer.”

Though the initiative is called Solarize Pocatello, Engle said the campaign has not been limited to the Gate City alone. While most of the marketing and outreach materials have targeted Pocatello, Engle said Intermountain Wind and Solar has installed systems or conducted site analyses as far north as Salmon and as far south as McCammon.

Other cities where Solarize Pocatello is installing residential solar systems include Idaho Falls, Inkom and Wilson, Wyoming.

“This is very much a regional effort,” Engle said.

Homeowners who would like to take advantage of the Intermountain Wind and Solar discounted price for a solar power system can sign up any time before July 31 for a free no-obligation assessment at Solarizepocatello.com. Once a price quote for a solar power system is received, homeowners have until the end of September to sign the contract for the system install.

As the price of electricity continues to rise, purchasing a solar power system now locks down a homeowner’s energy costs, said Engle, adding that every system installed and active by the end of December is eligible to receive a 30 percent federal tax credit.

“I’ll just tell you why I’m doing solar,” said Solarize Pocatello customer Ed DeSano of Pocatello. “My main concern is the heating of the planet. I’m old enough that I probably won’t see most of it but we want to do our part for our children and our grandchildren. My wife feels the same.”

The last Solarize Pocatello workshop is set for 7 p.m. July 18 at the Southeast Idaho Council of Governments Building at 214 E. Center St. in Pocatello.

”This is an opportunity to learn more about solar systems, ask questions, meet the installers and sign-up for a no-cost, no-obligation solar site assessment for your property,” Engle said about the July 18 workshop.

Not only is Engle the proud owner of a solar powered home, which resulted in his last power bill totaling only $3, but he also recently purchased a Tesla Model 3 car, which of course runs off the electricity Engle’s solar power system generates. In fact, Engle said one other Solarize Pocatello customer decided to install his solar power system solely because it could power a Tesla car, which the customer purchased after the system was installed.

“We bought the Tesla because my wife Linda always had this dream of owning a solar panel system on the house so she could charge an electric car to have a solar powered car,” Engle said. “We finally made it happen.”

With Solarize Pocatello’s deadlines approaching, Engle says there is no better time than now to help the planet in reducing carbon emissions.

He said solar power systems will also help make consumers’ pocketbooks feel a little heavier as they continue to save money on their monthly electric bills.

For Solarize Pocatello customer and Gate City resident Cara Sonnemann, a science teacher at Pocatello Community Charter School, going solar is not just about saving money, but also protecting the future of her children.

“Solar has to make up a larger share of our energy portfolio,” Sonnemann said. “When my students studied it last year I think it was less than 2 percent of our total electrical U.S. production. The projection is the panels (on our home) will offset 116 percent of our power bill. But it really wasn’t just about the money. It was about doing the right thing and trying to create a better future for our kids.”

Reporter Shelbie Harris can be reached at 208-239-3525. Follow him on Twitter: @shelbietharris.