Summit County officials are considering a community solar power program, in which homeowners would be eligible for a discount rate on solar panels by buying collectively in bulk.

The program is called Summit County Solar, and Stephanie Dolmat-Connell, Summit County Energy Programs Coordinator, likened the idea to Costco.

"When you buy in bulk, prices go down," Dolmat-Connell, told the Summit County Council during a budget meeting with department heads on Monday, Dec. 3. "If you get as many people signed up for this program as possible, you can get solar down to a really affordable price point."

Salt Lake County has started the same program, with 64 homeowners participating, creating 231 kilowatts of solar power.

"There are different pricing tiers depending on how many people sign up," Dolmat-Connell said. "So if you get the community to sign up for 100 kilowatts, you get a certain price. But if you can get up to 150 kilowatts, it's an even lower price."

With similar programs, residents have purchased solar panels at a 10 to 30 percent discount, not including additional tax benefits.

To be eligible for solar panels, residents would have to own their home and have enough sunlight. "Some people may have extreme shading issues with trees," she clarified.

Utah Clean Energy has offered to help fund the program for Park City and Summit County, if they agree to foot part of the costs.

"If we can't commit the money, they can't support us," Dolmat-Connell said.

Dolmat-Connell requested $15,000 from the County Council for sustainability programs, including Summit County Solar. Because the program would benefit areas outside of Park City, it would come out of the Municipal Fund, if the County Council approves it in the 2013 budget.

"It's designed that once you get going, you get a savings in utilities, but somebody has got to seed it," County Manager Bob Jasper said. "If we can install a whole neighborhood with panels and help with the upfront costs, do we do that?"

Dolmat-Connell reminded the County Council that they identified sustainability as a county priority.

"We've really focused on county operations so far, and we've been able to save the county over $20,000 a year in utilities. Now I think it's time to go out to the community and offer it to them," she said.

For information about solar tax benefits and rebates can be found at www.utahcleanenergy.org.