6 solar sites coming

Two solar power companies are partnering to install six solar sites in communities on the Western Slope — projects that will add a combined 10.3-megawatts of power to offset energy costs for a number of municipalities and other community agencies.

Denver-based Pivot Energy is developing and constructing the solar projects with financing from owner and operator Standard Solar of Rockville, Maryland.

The solar sites are located or planned in areas from Parachute to Grand Junction.

The Grand Valley will be home to three of the solar sites: a 2-megawatt solar array south of Palisade, a 2-megawatt solar array near 32 and C roads, and another solar array planned near the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant.

A solar array that generates 100 kilowatts of power is located in Parachute on land owned by the Garfield County Housing Authority. A 1-megawatt array is west of Silt and another array is planned for that town, according to the solar companies.

The projects represent a partnership with Xcel Energy's Solar Rewards Community program that offers dozens of community subscribers offsets on their electric bills.

For example, solar power generated at the 32 and C roads site will offset an estimated $1 million in electricity costs over 20 years for Grand Junction Regional Airport. Power from the site south of Palisade will offset all of the electricity costs for the town of De Beque.

The solar panels from the six sites are expected to offset greenhouse gases equivalent to nearly 3,000 passenger cars driven for one year and carbon dioxide emissions from nearly 15.2 million pounds of burned coal, Standard Solar said in a news release.

Solar company officials say representatives of local municipalities and other entities often are incredulous when Pivot Energy officials ask if they want to be solar subscribers, and they hear it won't cost them any money.

"It's hard for them to hear that we have an opportunity for them to save money," said Jon Fitzpatrick, director of project development for Pivot Energy.

Pivot Energy was formerly called Microgrid.

Fitzpatrick said there are more opportunities for private landowners to host solar arrays on their properties, but the land must be located within Xcel Energy's utility grid.

"We're excited to get this first round of projects going and continuing to develop with Xcel and cooperatives across the state," Fitzpatrick said. "We think this will be a great stepping stone on the Western Slope."