Sustainability: Solar systems

Scott Wegs, vice president of business development for Syndicated Solar, Inc., strongly believes we need to take a good look at how we use energy and figure out new ways to manage it.

He is convinced smart grid technology could greatly contribute to that process and help integrate on-site solar generation. In the summer, peak solar production typically coincides with peak energy demand during the hottest part of the afternoon.

Since our area averages 5.85 hours of sunlight per day grid-tied solar systems can put juice into the grid when the sun is shining and draw from the grid at other times.

Syndicated Solar is an engineering, procurement and construction company using local contractors to install solar systems. The company is working on solar projects with several businesses in the Grand Valley. All three local True Value Hardware locations are getting solar arrays.

Murdoch Ranch & Home Supply is working with Syndicated Solar to incorporate a Solyndra cylindrical solar system with a new “cool” white roof.

A number of other area businesses installed solar electric over the past few years through Syndicated. Mor Storage Sales, Grand River Vineyards, Palisade Pharmacy, Andy’s Liquor Mart and Talbott Farms are among them.

Grand River Vineyards installed its system in December 2009 and became the first solar-powered winery in Colorado, producing about 70 percent of its own electricity. Owners Steve and Naomi Smith decided to help the environment while taking advantage of rebates and tax credits.

Jenny Nichols, bookkeeper for the winery, was a little hesitant when she heard about the plan to install solar electric panels. Nichols has become a believer and said, “It is amazing how much it has cut the electric bill.”  The system even produces power on cloudy days, she said.

Wine Country Inn in Palisade recently worked with Sunsense Solar to install a solar system that is expected to generate 20 percent of the electricity used by the hotel.

Regulation has played a role in promoting the solar industry. In 2004 Colorado voters passed Amendment 37, a state initiative establishing a renewable energy portfolio standard.  The standard originally required 10 percent of power obtained by large utilities come from renewable sources by 2015.

Since utilities were having no problem reaching that target, the goals were readjusted.  The most recent renewable energy standard in Colorado requires 30 percent of power obtained by investor-owned utilities come from renewable sources by 2020. Regulations for reaching that goal mandate utilities procure a small percentage of its electricity from rooftop distributed generation solar systems.

Since 2009 contractors building single-family detached homes in Colorado must offer each buyer the options of having the home pre-wired for a solar electric system and pre-plumbed for a solar thermal system. The builder is also required to provide the buyer with a list of local solar contractors.

Grand Valley Power, as an electric cooperative, is required to obtain 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. Interest in solar energy is on the rise according to Derek Elder, energy services administrator.

GVP currently has 72 customers utilizing grid-tied solar systems with a total of 350-kilowatt capacity and an additional five applications pending.

Soon, Grand Valley Power members will have an opportunity to participate in a different approach to solar power. The electric cooperative is in the process of building a solar farm on two-thirds of an acre adjacent to the substation near 29 Road and Interstate 70.

The solar farm, modeled on the community concept in Brighton, is expected to be online in mid-August producing 20 kilowatts of power.  The farm will have potential to produce 130 kilowatts and GVP can replicate the model at other substations to meet demand for solar power. GVP has contracted with local vendors to build the site.

Members can lease production from solar panels for 25 years with a much lower initial investment than installing their own panels. Co-op members will receive more information in July when they can reserve solar panels to tap into locally produced renewable electricity.


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