Kevin Clyde spends about $350 in an average month to keep the power going at the Grand Rental Center.
But pretty soon, he expects to pocket all but a fraction of those costs, thanks to a new rooftop solar installation at the business on U.S. Highway 191.
He recently hired American Solar Power of South Jordan to set up 104 solar panels at the center, which rents and sells heavy equipment, along with equipment for parties and other special events.
Typically, the price tag for the 32.2-kilowatt system might run somewhere between $6,000 to $7,000. However, by taking advantage of state, federal and Rocky Mountain Power incentives, Clyde will shave an estimated 70 percent off the project costs; he expects to write off the remaining expenses within one year through depreciation.
“That seems to me to be a really good business decision,” he said.
Clyde said he wanted to act while a 30 percent federal tax credit is still in place.
“The government probably won’t do that forever, but (it’s) doing it now,” he said.
But there’s a strong likelihood that he would have made the investment anyway, regardless of the total project costs.
According to Clyde, the Grand Rental Center was one of the first businesses in town to sign up for Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky program, which promotes the development of renewable energy projects throughout its service area.
“We’re still buying our power at a higher rate to support those renewables,” he said.
He sees it as one thing he can do to fight climate change, which the vast majority of scientists link to greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and the combustion of other fossil fuels.
“I’m really concerned about global warming and our environment,” Clyde said. “I believe that fossil fuels — particularly oil and burning coal — are the biggest part of the problem.”
He predicts that federal regulators will soon impose “carbon taxes” on their greenhouse gas emissions, and he believes that utilities will pass those additional costs on to their customers.
Right now, he sees a window for society as a whole to be promoting solar power and other forms of renewable energy.
Clyde says this as someone whose business serves numerous customers from the oil and gas industries – customers who are an important part of his clientele, he said.
“I’m not against them,” he said. “(But) I see the handwriting on the wall. The handwriting says that both coal and oil are a limited resource, and ultimately, they’ll be gone.”
“These are industries that once again I support, because they do provide jobs around here, but I don’t see opportunities for growth,” he added.
Clyde didn’t make the decision to switch to solar on his own: Business partner Wheeler Machinery, which rents space on Clyde’s property, is fully behind the project, as well.
“They’re very much community-minded and believe that this is a good idea, too,” he said.
According to American Solar Power co-owner Kevin Hansen, the rental center installation is the largest of its kind in Grand County.
Hansen should know: He previously worked on solar power projects at KZMU, the Grand County Library and the hillside home of Moab Coffee Roasters and Lost River Trading Co. owner Dave Knowles, among other places.
The Grand Rental Center’s solar array comes with a net metering system, which will allow Clyde to feed excess power from the panels back into the grid. In the event that the panels aren’t producing as much energy as the building is using, Clyde will still be able to buy power from Rocky Mountain.
The system also incorporates the latest technology into its features, according to Hansen: The SMA-brand inverters come equipped with emergency power outlets.
“They will actually supply emergency power if the grid goes out,” Hansen said. “That’s a new feature these days.”
According to Clyde, the inverters will also help him calculate how many pounds and tons of greenhouse gases would have otherwise spewed into the atmosphere, if he’d relied on energy from conventional power plants.
He has a similar inverter system set up at his home, which is also hooked up to solar panels. Data from that system show that the panels have kept 30,000 pounds of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere in the last two years alone, according to Clyde.
Hansen said that the rising demand for cleaner sources of energy keeps him moving from one job to the next these days.
“Solar’s booming,” he said.
In Utah, much of that boom is centered around Moab and Grand County, according to Hansen.
Although his company is based on the suburban outskirts of Salt Lake City, Hansen said that half of his business comes from Grand County businesses and residents.
“I think it has the highest solar per capita anywhere in the state,” Hansen said.
It’s been like that since he started the business about six years ago.
“My first jobs were in Moab,” he said.
In more recent months, his company teamed up with nonprofit group Community Rebuilds and its newest homeowners to put in rooftop solar panels at two new straw bale homes on Holyoak Lane.
It also built an installation at Dave Knowles’ property four or five months ago, setting the panels up on a rocky and barren hillside just behind the family’s house.
“It’s a piece of property that will never be used for anything else, so it’s a perfect place for it,” Hansen said.
Although there are ups and downs in solar power generation, Knowles said that the system will fill his home’s energy needs over the course of a year.
It’s something that he’d been hoping to build for years and years, he said.
“I tell people that it’s a lifelong dream.”
Knowles struggles to elaborate, joking that the topic of solar power is “not sexy.” Hansen, however, might be quick to disagree with him.
“When we first put them up, I was watching the output – it’s fantastic,” he said.