Why we’re turning to solar power
As anyone who lives in Utah knows, it’s a sunny state. Utah, like other western states, is endowed with one of the sunnier climates in the country. In fact, Salt Lake City is among the top 10 sunniest metropolitan areas in the United States, with the sun shining 66 percent of the time in daylight hours. It’s no wonder that, as the cost of solar installations is falling, businesses such as First Utah Bank are embracing solar power.
You read that right: First Utah Bank has switched to solar! Our headquarters office in Salt Lake City is now 100% powered by the solar panels we have on the roof of our building and parking structure. We’ve also added a couple of stations where owners of electric cars can get a charge while in the bank.
Why are we adopting solar? We have several reasons. For one, it pencils out because of tax benefits (credits and depreciation). Plus the cost of installing a solar system has fallen to the point that it will cost us less, in a few short years, to get our electricity from the sun than from the electrical grid. However, we had reasons beyond our return on investment. “We also like the green aspect, and the fact we’ve done it helps us better understand it from a borrower’s perspective,” says Roger Shumway, Vice President and Business Banking officer.
That last point is important: Because we’ve gone through the process of analyzing, planning, installing and now operating a solar project at our headquarters, we know what other Utah businesses on the same path need. Are you considering solar for your manufacturing plant? For an office building? For your warehouse, storage facility or perhaps your medical clinic? We hope you’ll get in touch to discuss the possibilities.
As a community bank serving small and mid-sized businesses in the Salt Lake Valley, we can connect our customers with companies that sell solar panels and handle the installation. They can answer questions about solar and we can get rolling on an important and often missing piece of the solar equation: how you’ll finance your solar project. We have several financing options, including conventional financing, SBA loans and USDA Rural Energy for America loans. First Utah Bank lends nationwide in all 50 states.
While much of the buzz around solar power is geared toward homeowners, more and more businesses are adopting solar power. “We want to tap into that market and help businesses realize the benefits,” Shumway says. “Instead of renting your power, you end up owning your power.” Barry Angstman, Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer adds, “”You already own the building. Why not own your power, too?”
SolarSimplified, a website run by the non-profit Utah Clean Energy, notes that major corporations such as Walmart, Costco, Ikea and Kohl’s have already moved to solar because it lowers their operating costs. “Solar provides an elegant solution and opportunity for businesses; not only does solar reduce operational expenses, but it also provides predictably priced electricity for 20 to 30 years and offers an invaluable hedge against utility price volatility. By offsetting utility bills for decades to come, an investment in solar will start generating a return on your investment immediately and will pay for itself over time (something not many capital investments can guarantee),” the site says.
Of course, solar power is often a major investment, and it requires due diligence. The Utah Solar Energy Association suggests doing your homework before taking the leap. Talk to other businesses, use common sense and be active and engaged while dealing with solar companies. The association suggests asking these questions:
- What is the total cost of the solar system?
- What is my timeline for this investment? Do I want a short-term arrangement or a long-term asset?
- How much do I pay up front? How much over time? And for how long?
- What is the system size?
- How much electricity will the system generate each year?
- Do you guarantee a minimum amount (a production guarantee)?
- Can I expect to save money with this system? If so, how much? Based on what assumptions?
- Is the installation company licensed and insured?
- What will the system look like once installed? Will I receive a system design for my review and approval before installation?
- Will I be required to make any changes to my building?
- Are there separate warranties for parts and labor and what do they cover?
- What type of maintenance or cleaning is required? Are any maintenance services included?
- Who receives solar tax incentives and how are they factored into the cost?
- Will my payments increase over time?
- What are my options when I want to sell the building?
- Who is responsible for repairs and maintenance on the system?
The sooner you can get us involved when you’re contemplating going to solar, the better, says Angstman. “We like to be more consultative from a bank relationship standpoint.” If a deal makes sense, we’ll work hard to get it done. You can call 801-308-2265 or send us a message from this page on our website. We also invite you to drop by our headquarters at 3826 South 2300 East to see the monitor in our lobby that tracks the energy we’re producing with our solar array!