Community solar garden a bright future for energy

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. The center of our solar system is now the focal point of energy development in the Grand Valley.

Construction for the community solar garden is set to begin next week at the site on D 1/4 Rd near the 29 Rd bridge after two years of planning.

"This is 10 acres of solar panels, about 6,700 panels," said Scott Ely, president of Sunsense Solar, the construction company responsible for the project.

It'll be the biggest solar garden on the Western Slope with the capability of supplying more than 350 houses with power.

"This helps to expand the energy portfolio if you will and get more solar energy into the Grand Valley and surrounding areas," Ely said.

Although Xcel Energy will be running the power, community organizations will be subscribing to pay for its production, while receiving bill credits from Xcel.

The city of Grand Junction, District 51, Alpine Bank, the Grand Junction Housing Authority and tentatively Mesa County are among the subscribers.

"Our first year savings is estimated at $90,000," said Kathy Portner, of the economic development and sustainability division for city of Grand Junction. "Over the 20 year life of the project, we’re estimating that the city will save about $2 million.

District 51 estimates its first year savings at $60,000 and it will also continue its precedent of being one of the most energy efficient school districts in the state.

"When we look at our portfolio of energy need, our electricity now, 25% of our electric energy will be met with clean renewable solar power and we like that," said Eric Anderson, energy manager for District 51.

Surveying and clearing of land will begin Monday and the solar garden is set to be running by early July.

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