Boulder County has suspended its popular, voter-approved ClimateSmart Loan Program, which lets you borrow money from them (at relatively low interest rates) to make energy-efficient improvements to your home like adding solar panels or blowing in some more insulation.
There are, apparently, a couple of problems that came out last week. One is a set of new rules from the DOE that govern loans like ClimateSmart — though that one will likely be no that big of deal. The second, which is more of a problem, is a letter from mortgage-buying giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The letter implies that the government-sponsored agencies won’t buy mortgages for houses that have ClimateSmart liens on them.
“Every program in the country — in Colorado the programs that are just getting set to launch in Eagle County — are going into neutral and saying, ‘We’ll continue developing programs,’ but nobody is going to issue any additional financing until there’s clarification of the letter,” Commissioner Will Toor told the Camera on Thursday.
“The timing here in Boulder County is very unfortunate because we had a round of residential loans that would be closing tomorrow and we were looking at a bond sale in a few weeks,” he said. “There are a bunch of property owners and a bunch of contractors who were hoping that this would move forward.”
After months of waiting, stimulus dollars freed up in February have trickled into Boulder, reinvigorating the local solar industry.
It took until June for the feds to figure out how some of the programs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act should be administered, including language that allowed companies to take a cash grant, instead of a tax credit, worth 30 percent of the cost for installing solar.
And since companies have to be profitable to take a tax credit, the change could mean a big boom in solar.
In Boulder County, Namaste Solar Electric is just starting up its first big commercial project since the economy tanked last fall. They’re installing a 100 kilowatt solar array on the roof of the Eldorado Natural Spring Water’s Louisville building. (That’s a solar-panel spread about 25 times larger than the average residential display.)
“Last October, all sectors of the economy took a hit, and for us, all of our projects, especially the commercial projects, were put on indefinite hold,” said Blake Jones, president of Namaste Solar.
“This is the first big commercial project since the recovery act. We’ve been waiting six months for this to happen. That’s the kind of lag time it took for the rules to be figured out.”