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California RV Parks Happy To Go Solar

February 19, 2014 by   - () Leave a Comment

Like many business operators, Bill Talley often thought about investing in solar panels at Twentynine Palms (Calif.) RV Resort, but he didn’t really have an incentive to act until two years ago.

“That’s when my energy costs surpassed my payroll costs,” said Talley, who has eight employees involved in managing, maintaining and staffing the front office at his 197-site park, according to a press release from the California Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (CalARVC)..

But by investing in solar panels, which were installed last summer, Talley expects to be able to cut his electricity costs by 57%, based on a solar investment analysis provided by Irvine, Calif.-based Shorebreak Energy Developers, a leading provider of solar energy systems for RV parks, schools and government buildings.

Talley noted that the costs of installing solar panels are significant, but not as much as one might expect, particularly after factoring in various state and federal tax rebates and energy credits.

Talley refinanced his park to pay for the solar panels, which cost $634,000 to install. But after factoring in a federal tax credit of $190,382; federal depreciation of $228,459; state depreciation of $77,422; and a utility rebate of $68,909, his actual net investment was just under $70,000.

And when he looks to the future, Talley figures he also has a hedge against future energy-cost increases.

Other RV park operators have reached similar conclusions.

Desert Willow RV Park in Hesperia installed $800,000 worth of solar panels three years ago. But after factoring in a $240,000 federal tax credit, the net investment was just $560,000.

“We’re saving just over $100,000 a year in electricity costs with these solar panels, which is phenomenal,” said Peter Than, a senior associate with Freestone Capital Management in Seattle, which manages the RV park. Than estimated that the solar panels will pay for themselves within 5 1/2 years.

“After that, everything that comes in will be income,” Than said, adding that the panels are guaranteed for 25 years.

Private park operators who installed solar panels several years ago also said they are happy with their investments.

“If I were to do it again, I would definitely do it,” said Ken Jeffries, who installed solar panels four years at the 89-site Angels Camp RV & Camping Resort in Angels Camp. “We’re probably saving $20,000 to $30,000 a year by having the solar panels.”

Some private park operators are also expanding their solar-power-generating systems.

John Grant installed 105 kilowatts worth of solar panels at Auburn Gold Country RV Park in Auburn in March, 2012. They performed so well he installed another 105 kilowatts worth of panels in December.

“The two systems will take care of about 80 percent of the electrical needs of the property,” Grant said. So having previously faced $100,000 a year in electrical costs, Grant figures he’ll be saving about $80,000 a year with the solar panels.

Having solar panels also provides parks with good PR.

“Our guests love them,” Grant said. “Our campers like the fact that we’re running a green park.”

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