A local business expects payback from a recent solar installation, payback made all the sweeter by a federal grant and tax credit.

Together, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Energy for America Program and federal tax credits are covering 55 percent of the cost for Cactus Car Wash’s solar project.

“It’s a little better than half of the costs. It will offset the majority or our electric, at least, if it works according to plan,” said Bruce Leben who owns the family-operated car wash.

The business received a $6,032 grant under REAP, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office announced last week.

The Rural Energy for America Program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to small rural businesses such as Cactus Car Wash, and to agricultural producers, to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements, according to information from Bennet’s office.

“This grant will help (Cactus Car Wash) make crucial improvements to boost the energy efficiency of its business, while saving on future energy costs,” Bennet said in a provided statement.

The grant covered 25 percent of the installation, while the business benefited from a federal tax credit for 30 percent, he said.

The car wash added 56 photovoltaic solar cells on its roof. The 14.84 kilowatt roof-mounted system is expected to offset the bulk of electrical costs.

“It went a long ways toward making the payback reasonable, in my estimation,” Leben said, noting that the costs of traditionally provided electric are expected to rise. “The cost of electricity going forward isn’t going to decrease. Any increase just makes the payback on solar that much better.”

The system came online at Cactus Car Wash in September.

“By all accounts, so far, it seems to be performing the way it was specified,” Leben said.

Solar is worth considering, but the upfront costs can be a deterrent, he said. Not every business qualifies for REAP and the paperwork involved is onerous. Leben said he received help in fine-tuning the application.

“It took several go-rounds to have all the forms completed satisfactorily,” he said.

Leben also praised Dynamic Integration of Montrose for its installation work.

“They were great to work with, helped a bunch with the REAP paperwork and some of the technical things,” he said. “They were so good to work with, I put a slightly larger system up on our ranch. We just went online with it Friday.”

Using solar technology can also have environmental benefits, he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a great feeling,” he said.

Other improvements Cactus Car Wash announced in October included an upgrade to 100 percent LED lighting and installation of one 90-percent efficient boiler to replace two old 60-percent efficient boilers. The business also replaced an older touch-free automatic system with a newer, more technologically advanced wash system.

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