A Glenwood community center powered by the sun | AspenTimes.com

A Glenwood community center powered by the sun

Post Independent staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado

Heather McGregor/CLEERCommunity leaders and clean energy advocates gathered Friday to celebrate the installation of a 20.5-kilowatt solar electric system at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. The 114 panels on the roof have been generating about 90 kilowatt-hours per day, about the same amount of electricity used by four to five average American households.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Community leaders and clean energy advocates gathered Friday to celebrate the new solar array at the Glenwood Springs Community Center – the first solar electric system to be installed on a Glenwood Springs city government building.

“Today shows what we were hoping for. The sun is shining and we are making electricity,” said Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen.

The 114 solar panels mounted on the roof of the community center have already produced more than 1,400 kilowatt hours of free, clean electricity since the system was switched on in early November, said Rob Morey, program manager for Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), which provided technical assistance to the city government for the project.

Because the $82,500 solar system was totally paid for by a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the city will enjoy the financial benefit of free energy from the start, Morey noted.

“This solar array represents a new focus for the city of Glenwood Springs: to make our buildings operate more efficiently and to use renewable energy to power our buildings,” said City Council member Shelley Kaup.

Kaup chairs the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative advisory board, the nine-member board that governs the $1.6 million Department of Local Affairs grant awarded in 2008 to Garfield County, its six municipalities, the Garfield Public Library District and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

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“Of the $1.6 million, we allocated $700,000 to the 1 Megawatt Campaign, and we now have solar arrays in every town in the county, from Parachute to Carbondale,” Kaup said.

“The Garfield Initiative has been a great effort, a great partnership that has set the standard for going forward,” Kaup added.

David Sturges, mayor pro tem of Glenwood Springs and the city’s alternate on the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative advisory board, said, “This whole project has ignited inventive and creative thinking.”

“It’s always an amazing thing to see a regional partnership work so well together,” said Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt. “To see 16 solar projects come out of this is remarkable.”

The solar arrays also represent clean energy jobs, said Scott Ely, president of Sunsense Solar, the Carbondale company that installed the Community Center system. “Jobs are created and sustained through these projects.”

Christensen noted that the new solar electric system is expected to offset about 2 percent of the present electric use by the community center. “This complex is our city government’s biggest energy user. With the energy efficiency measures we are planning, we hope to turn the corner on that.”

Glenwood Springs City Manager Jeff Hecksel said the city had an investment-grade energy audit carried out on the building, and is now making about $250,000 worth of efficiency upgrades to the building.

“Once these are complete, we expect to save about $31,000 a year,” Hecksel said.

For more information about the other solar energy systems installed throughout Garfield County through the Garfield Initiative, visit http://www.garfieldcleanenergy.org.