Energy stream: Colorado Mesa, GJ firm link solar, natural gas
There’s no shortage of sun and natural gas in western Colorado, making it a prime location to learn how to marry the two energy sources.
Colorado Mesa University and Atlasta Solar Center, 111 S. Seventh St., teamed up to do exactly that, joining together a solar energy system with a 14 kilowatt-hour generator that runs on natural gas.
CMU’s Unconventional Energy Center and Atlasta each chipped in $6,900 for the needed equipment and Jose Morales, a CMU mechanical-engineering technology student, helped build the system that ultimately will provide heat, electricity and light.
Eventually, said Lou Villaire, one of three co-owners of Atlasta, “We want to see it get to the point that we use the utility as a backup” instead of as a prime energy source.
The proposal by Atlasta, a 35-year-old Grand Junction company, fit the mission of the university’s Unconventional Energy Center, which provides funding for workforce development and research, said Derek Wagner, vice president for intergovernmental and community affairs for CMU.
For Morales, a 2009 Grand Junction High School graduate, the venture provided real-world experience that he said he hoped to use after graduation.
His interest in alternative energy was kindled in his youth, visiting his grandparents in Mexico.
“I was interested to see if there were other ways to provide energy,” Morales said.
The next step in the project is to create seamless switching from natural gas to solar to the grid, as conditions warrant, including the current price of each source.
On Tuesday, Morales manually pulled down the switch taking the building’s interior systems from solar to natural gas.
His next job is to set up the system so all those decisions are automated, one he hopes to complete during his final semester at CMU, Morales said.