Bringing solar to Solara in El Jebel |

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Bringing solar to Solara in El Jebel

Jon Colson/The Aspen TimesMatt Hamilton of the Aspen Skiing Co. and Christiane Maertens of the Walt Disney Co. get a little goofy with scissors and ribbon at the Solara preschool in El Jebel. With a line of kids looking on, the two, along with school owner Laurie Soliday (standing), celebrated the recent installation of solar-electric collector panels on the school's roof, thanks to grants from the Skico, Disney and others.

EL JEBEL ” What do the Walt Disney Co., the Aspen Skiing Co., the X Games and Solara, a preschool in El Jebel, have in common?

Solar energy, that’s what, thanks to a grant program that funded installation of a bank of solar panels by the Vibrant Solar company of Carbondale and Denver, and a bit of serendipity involving Solara’s proximity to Aspen, where the X Games have been taking place for the past several years.

According to Christiane Maertens of Disney, the company started a program known as Environmentality several years ago in connection with the X Games, which Disney controls.

Environmentality has been working with the Skico’s Community and Environmental Responsibility Foundation to buy alternative-energy credits to offset the power used for the games, said Matt Hamilton of the Skico’s employee- funded foundation.

In late 2007, Hamilton and Maertens started looking for other ways to promote environmental awareness and help community organizations, and advertised for grant applications from area nonprofits.

Laurie Soliday, owner and director at Solara, said a large part of the school’s mission is to teach environmental sustainability to kids. She applied for a grant, and the result was the installation of an array of solar cells on the school’s roof, using $15,000 from Environmentality, $13,000 from the Skico’s foundation, and other funds from the Community Office of Resource Efficiency and Holy Cross Electric Association.