Solar garden proposed for school land

A “garden” of sun-collecting solar panels proposed for a plot of School District 51 land in Pear Park could save energy bill-payers approximately $4 million, according to city of Grand Junction planning documents.

The school district is in the process of allowing San Francisco-based solar energy development firm Ecoplexus, Inc. to build a community solar garden on 10.56 acres of district property at 2930 D 1/4 Road.

District 51 School Board members approved an option to a lease agreement with Ecoplexus for its land June 18 and Grand Junction Planning Commissioners approved a conditional use permit for the project June 25.

Construction of the solar garden could begin as soon as late July or early August as long as a subscription agreement for the district to get 40 percent of the energy produced by the solar garden is approved, according to District 51 Maintenance and Operations Director Cal Clark.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said at the June 19th meeting the school board’s formal approval for the entire project will likely come Aug. 6.

Ecoplexus was approved last year to participate in Xcel’s Solar*Rewards program, which agrees to provide the California company with incentives for building a network of solar panels on 10.56 acres at the D 1/4 Road site. Ecoplexus would use the system to generate renewable energy and sell it to Xcel, who will in turn funnel that energy into their system and charge the school district and other subscribers to the 2 megawatt solar garden a discounted rate for energy.

Clark estimated the system will have about 10 subscribers and that the district’s share will provide power for six local schools.

“We hope to have that up and running the first part of October,” Clark said.

The school district purchased the land at 2930 D 1/4 Road as a potential elementary school site but abandoned that idea because nearby drainage ditches posed access problems for the site.

The site is less than a mile west of Pear Park Elementary School and surrounded by vacant land and some subdivisions. Landscaping and fencing will surround the solar garden. No neighbors attended an April informational meeting about the proposed project.


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