Sun chips in at Mountain Fair |

Sun chips in at Mountain Fair

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

CARBONDALE Visitors to last weekend’s Carbondale Mountain Fair had more reasons to be grateful to the sun than simply the warm weather and the tans.That’s because the sun also provided the power that cooked the food, lit the stage and the booths, and amplified the music that thousands of revelers enjoyed.”This is the first completely solar-powered Mountain Fair,” arts official Ro Mead declared with pride on July 27, the first evening of the fair. Mead is director of its parent organization, the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities.

The park is now solar-powered, thanks to a project to redesign the roof of the picnic pavilion in the center of the park. The result is a look that it is now known locally as the “witch’s hat” because, when viewed from either end, the roof looks like an upward sloping brim with a pointed peak.Along the southern edge of that peak, facing Mount Sopris, local solar electric and renewable energy firm Sunsense Inc. has installed an array of photovoltaic cells.According to Scott Ely, a principal of Sunsense, the solar-cell installation first occurred to him in February 2006 when he noticed the roof of the old picnic pavilion was “looking pretty shabby.”

Upon inquiry with the town, he learned that a redesign and reconstruction was planned, and he “suggested that this might be an excellent opportunity to put some solar on that roof,” which faces south and gets unshaded solar exposure throughout the winter.Town officials, who have a history of support for alternative energy applications, agreed, and the project was born. With help from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, the project won a $10,000 grant from the Aspen Skiing Co.’s Environmental Foundation, and a $27,000. power rebate allotment from Excel Energy. Sunsense kicked in $5,700 worth of equipment at discounted prices, and the town upgraded the roof design with the help of architect Jeff Dickenson.Ely said the roof was rebuilt last summer, in part using recycled material from the old roof. The solar cells were finally installed and operating by October 2006; the cells built up a store of “power credits” equaling 5,600 kilowatt-hours over the 2006-07 winter.

Because last year’s Mountain Fair consumed only about 2,200 kilowatt-hours, according to bills on file at Town Hall, Ely calculated, “We had produced more than double the amount of power that was consumed last year at the fair.”So, he continued, “I’m sure we’ll be able to power many more events this year, and then start accumulating credits for next year.”John Colson’s e-mail address is


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