Solar power projects flaring up all over Garfield County

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Solar energy production takes off at a relative speed of light through empty fields and on the rooftops of Garfield County.

Denver-based Pivot Energy announced this week that one of its new “community-scale” solar farms, located southeast of Silt, will be ready to go online next month.

The 2-megawatt 20-acre (MW) solar farm is expected to generate enough electricity to power about 400 homes.

The site includes 5,000 solar modules, which serve as two projects in one, said Nate Watters, Pivot Energy’s communications manager.

One MW of energy produced from the site will serve Xcel Energy customers in the area through local government procurement. The other 1 MW of power is reserved for low-income subscribers, he said.

The project is the result of a three-way partnership between Pivot Energy, the private owners who rent the site, and Standard Solar, which funded the project and will be the owner.

A similar project is also coming online in Jefferson County later this summer. And, Pivot is still under development to build a 3 MW solar facility on about 28 acres between U.S. Highway 6 and Interstate 70 west of Parachute. Garfield County Commissioners earlier this month approved the project.

“Our ongoing collaboration with Standard Solar has been a huge success as we work to meet Colorado’s growing demand for cleaner energy,” said Jon Fitzpatrick, Pivot Energy’s vice president of project development, in a press release. . “This is an exciting portfolio to develop that will support local jobs and generate economic benefits for Garfield and Jefferson counties, while advancing the state’s progress in clean energy.”

Pivot worked with Xcel to develop the Silt project as part of its Solar Rewards program, designed to help Xcel achieve its renewable energy goals.

In addition, the Carbondale-based, nonprofit Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), which also manages the Garfield Clean Energy (GCE) programs, helped developers align government subscribers. local for the project.

“Without CLEER’s involvement, we would not have been able to find so many local subscribers to this project,” Fitzpatrick said.

Part of CLEER’s mission is to find renewable solutions for its GCE members, including Garfield County and local municipalities, that provide financial support for the effort.

“Solar energy is an important part of Garfield County’s economic development strategy,” Katharine Rushton, director of CLEER’s renewable energy program, said about the new Pivot project. “This project will allow local governments that have subscribed to cover their electricity needs with locally produced energy.”

And, providing access to low-cost solar power is particularly useful for lower-income households, he said.

Pivot projects are just one part of an accelerated trend in Garfield County.

Recently, Glenwood Springs-based Holy Cross Energy announced plans to build 20 MWs of new solar energy, including a partnership with Colorado Mountain College to obtain a 4.5 MW complex on its Spring campus. Valley.

GCE is also in the midst of a three-month campaign to install 1 MW of solar capacity through roof systems throughout Garfield County.

CLEER staff member Erica Sparhawk, who runs GCE, told Garfield County Commissioners last week that, to date, more than 350 customers have signed up for the Garfield County Solarize program, including 80 March 1 when the campaign began. Since then, 56 roof or garden solar panel systems have been purchased.

“The idea is that if you buy a certain amount of solar energy, everyone who bought it will get a discount,” he said. “We are exceeding all expectations in the number of registrations and people are very eager to seize the opportunity.”

Larger matrices on a community scale, also called solar farms, differ from roof systems by being owned and operated by a third party and typically follow a subscription model. Subscribers pay for the electricity they use and receive the corresponding monthly credit from their regular public company, GCE explained in a separate press release.

“Because subscribers pay for a service instead of owning their own system, they are not responsible for installation or maintenance costs and the subscription can be transferred if they move.

To help advance this effort, GCE has used a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (with matching funds from Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties) to map out possible community solar sites in the region.

This effort involved anticipating potential sites that could house a solar farm and then contacting the landowners to make them aware of the potential to lease the land for this purpose.

“Having the map makes it easy for solar power developers to find the right places,” Sparhawk said.

Of the three counties involved in the project, Garfield County had the most potential locations listed on the map, he said.

Also at the May 3 committee meeting of the county commissioners, the commissioners renewed the county’s $ 150,000 grant to support GCE’s efforts to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy in the region.

You can contact John Stroud, senior reporter / editor, at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

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