Two families in Bayfield are receiving free solar panels thanks to La Plata County’s only certified benefit corporation, Shaw Solar, as part of a Habitat for Humanity project.
The solar installation is the last step in a Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County project to build a duplex on Fox Farm Circle near Mill Street. For Shaw Solar, donating time and equipment is one way it fulfills its mission to aid the community.
“Oftentimes, the people who are buying solar are typically in perhaps the top half of the economic ladder,” Shaw said. “To me, it’s really important to try to get solar accessible to all income levels.”
Shaw Solar became certified in 2018 through the nonprofit B Lab, which administers the process for mission-driven companies around the world. The next closest certified companies are Vista Caballo, a leadership center in Dolores County, and Mayfly Outdoors, an outdoor sports equipment company in Montrose County.
Certified B Corps, like Shaw Solar in Durango, encourage businesses to act as a force for good in their communities, for employees and in the environment.
The solar units, each valued at $6,500, will provide about 60% of the home’s electricity needs. That equals about $700 in savings on electricity each year, Shaw said.
The solar installation can last up to 25 years. If the homeowners want to add solar panels, they could have 100% of their electricity needs powered by solar, he said.
“Living in a community, where you’re growing old and taxes and insurance can go up ... being able to reduce or eliminate your utilities in a house that’s all electric is key,” said Rachel Taylor-Saghie, executive director with the regional Habitat for Humanity.
A small household plans to move into one unit once the family completes its sweat-equity hours, a requirement placed on Habitat homes.
A person with a disability will move into the second unit, which is outfitted with special wheelchair accessibility accommodations.
The end result is the two households will have a pathway to becoming homeowners while paying 30% of their gross monthly income for the mortgage payment – and saving on electricity.
“The units are very small and modest, but the solar panels will allow them to save on utilities, as well, as they age in place,” Taylor-Saghie said. “(Shaw Solar) is extremely generous to homeowners that would never be able to afford anything like this.”