Phil Castle, The Business Times
A Grand Junction solar energy company marks its 40th year in business at what a co-owner considers an unprecedented time for customers to purchase systems.
“This is the best time in history to buy solar,” said Darin Carei, co-owner of Atlasta Solar Center.
The price of photovoltaic systems has dropped even as financing has become more readily available to customers who don’t want to pay for systems upfront, Carei said. Moreover, a 30 percent federal income tax credit is still available this year for those who purchase residential and commercial systems.
The recent growth of the operation reflects those conditions, he said.
Atlasta Solar has sold, installed and serviced solar systems in Western Colorado since Virgil Boggess started the venture in 1979. That makes Atlasta one of the longest operating solar companies in Colorado.
Carei and Lou Villaire purchased the company from Boggess in 2012. Teddy Aegerter and Kevin Love joined the ownership group in 2018.
Carei attributed the longevity of Atlasta Solar in part to the efforts of Boggess, a pioneer in the solar energy industry who kept the operation going through a series of business cycles. “The star of this effort is the founder of this business.”
Carei also credited the staff. “We have great people here. They’re smart, diligent and they care. And they believe in the product.”
Atlasta Solar sells photovoltaic and thermal solar systems for residential and commercial use, including photovoltaic systems that tie into the grid and systems that operate off the grid, Carei said.
The company conducts a free and no-obligation site analysis to determine what kind of system would work best and what kind of performance a customer can expect.
Atlasta Solar uses a drone and computer technology to measure a site and help design the appropriate system, Carei said.
The company is vertically integrated, he said, in not only selling systems, but also designing, engineering and installing them as well as handling warranty work.
Villaire said Atlasta Solar installs most of its systems for residents and small- and medium-sized businesses, but also has done some work on off-site solar farms.
Atlasta Solar serves a geographic area that extends from Grand Junction south to Telluride and east to Glenwood Springs and Aspen, Carei said
The company recently opened a location in Montrose, where a separate crew handles work in that area. Carei said he expects to open a third location somewhere between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs.
Carei doubled the size of the Grand Junction location to add a warehouse as well as space for two other companies he operates — EnergyWise Companies and Synergy Builders. EnergyWise Companies provides a range of services related to energy conservation. Synergy Builders constructs single and multi-family homes in Western Colorado that meet Energy Star standards. Some of those homes are equipped with solar systems.
While solar energy systems were initially popular because of their environmental benefits as a clean and renewable source of electricity and heat, the falling price has become more of a motivation, Carei said. “Now it’s economics because it pays back so fast.”
He estimated the price of electrical production from solar systems has dropped 90 percent over the past 10 years and
70 percent over the past seven years. The increased availability of financing at low-interest rates makes it possible for people to purchase systems without upfront costs.
Villaire said federal tax credits have promoted the use of solar systems as well, although those credits are phasing out.
A 30 percent federal income tax credit remains available for residential and commercial systems through 2019. But the credit drops to 26 percent in 2020 and
22 percent in 2021, he said. After 2021, the residential credit will drop to zero while the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10 percent.
While a lot has changed for Atlasta Solar Center and the solar industry over the past 40 years, Carei said at least one thing remains the same in the lower utility bills customers receive after installing systems. “The excitement people have when they get their first bill. That hasn’t changed.”
Atlasta Solar Center is located at 1111 S. Seventh St. in Grand Junction. For more information, call 248-0057 or visit the website at www.atlastasolar.com.