Solar energy booms in Mesa County
Homeowners and businesses across Mesa County are investing in solar energy, for both environmental reasons and economic reasons as well.
On average, Grand Junction has sunshine more than 70% of the year. With numbers like that, the solar industry has seen a boom in Mesa County.
Solar energy has been around since the 70s and 80s but the last decade has seen an increase in the industry.
"Right now we have a backlog which is great. It’s great to be full on our schedule knowing that so many people are getting solar" said Heidi Ihrke, owner of High Noon Solar.
High Noon Solar has been doing business in the Grand Valley since 2005. She says because of our abundance of sunlight, the Western Slope is an ideal spot for solar.
"We have so much sunlight that it should be pushing us towards doing more and more installations every single day. We’re so sunny here and it's not hot like in Phoenix and Tucson. The heat affects solar panels to work less efficiently" explained Ihrke.
Solar power isn't just great for the environment. Ihrke says the technology now makes it smart business as well.
"Some people choose for the renewable aspect, the green aspect in that sense, and some people choose for the green aspect of monetary. It’s useful on both ends of the spectrum so it's a good solution for everyone" said Ihrke.
That's why many organizations have been making the switch including Grand Valley Catholic Outreach. It’s reduced its bills by 40%, leaving more for its true goal of helping the needy.
"Those dollars now can be put into another category when people come in and they're in danger of losing their homes or having their electricity turned off. We can help them and assist them so that that doesn't happen" explained Sister Karen Bland, Executive Director of Grand Valley Catholic Outreach.
You don't just save money on your bills. The government offers tax rebates and some companies like Xcel offer incentives. That's what made it possible for School District 51 which has already installed panels on 7 of its schools and is working on an 8th.
"The intent of that whole program was to help get solar moving and get it working with eventual vision of having it be able to stand on its own two feet and we feel that's been pretty successful" said Fred Eggleston, Area Manager for Xcel Energy on the Western Slope.
"All the way around… Xcel wins, High Noon wins, and School District 51 and our students and our community win" said Eric Anderson, Energy Manager for School District 51.
Besides saving about $100,000 a year, District 51 is also using the technology to educate it’s students.
"The greater vision is to create that sort of a program here at the Career Center where students who want to go into that career field could begin here. Learn A to Z from solar design, solar installation, and monitoring" explained Anderson.
It's a lesson Grand Junction has already learned on municipal buildings like at the Two Rivers Convention Center where it's saving money for the city and its taxpayers.
"We’re just thrilled to have been able to do that and to just start looking at ways that we can save energy and save tax dollars" said Kathy Portner of the Economic Development Sustainability Division for the City of Grand Junciton.
You can even go online and see how much energy is being produced from the solar panels at Two Rivers by clicking here. You can see how much was produced in just the last hour or in the last year.
However, the future of solar energy depends on even more breakthroughs and keeping the technology affordable for everyone.
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