The Garfield County Libraries have been thrilled to continue partnering with Colorado Mountain College (CMC) to make energy-producing solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays possible at the libraries. This partnership was first formed two years ago when the Libraries’ Facilities Manager, Jerry Morris, reached out to CMC with the idea to have students enrolled in Integrated Energy Program courses be involved in the planning and installation of a PV system on the New Castle Branch Library.
That partnership allowed the Libraries to have a 10 kilowatt (kW) system installed on the New Castle Branch that would have otherwise been too expensive. It also gave students real-world experience that took their knowledge beyond the confines of a typical classroom. In fact, the partnership was so successful that CMC instructor Chris Ellis and Master Electrician Jordan Arnhold of Green-Tech Electrical jumped at the opportunity to continue working with the Garfield County Libraries on the next project in Silt.
“This brings joy to all of us when we see our students working in the community to create better futures for all,” said CMC Instructional Chair Barbara K.V. Johnson, Ph.D.
Design for the solar panels for the new Silt Branch Library began in the fall of last year, just after the installation of the panels atop New Castle’s building was completed. Students not only helped design the system for Silt, but gained knowledge and experience to become certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Both leaders on the project, Chris Ellis and Jordan Arnhold, are NABCEP certified PV Installation Professionals. Three of students were eligible to take the entry level certification test in May. All three passed. Four more students will be eligible to take the test in December. “Here’s a success story, that others can learn from and hopefully experience themselves” said Arnhold.
The installation of the PV system on top of the Silt Branch Library took Ellis, Arnhold and nine students roughly 10 days to complete. At current electricity rates, this 19.6 kilowatt system could save the Silt Branch Library approximately $300 per month. And, at times when the solar-electric production is greater than the building demand, Xcel Energy’s net-metering program buys the excess power generated for the grid, reducing the long-term operational costs of the library.
The Garfield County Libraries want to thank Colorado Mountain College staff, students and volunteers for making this possible for the Library District, taxpayers, and everyone who enjoys the new, beautiful Silt Branch Library. The Libraries would also like to thank the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District for a generous $50,000 grant and Xcel Energy for a $10,000 renewable energy grant to help with this project. We could not have done it without you.