Brighter energy days ahead |

Brighter energy days ahead

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Jim Gaw looked at the solar panel arrays and contemplated a possible lesson plan.

The 756-panel system stands right outside the building he teaches in, and it will generate about 200,000 kilowatt hours per year, enough energy to power 20 to 25 homes and keep 330,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air, according to estimates.

“Those panels have tremendous educational opportunities,” said Gaw, who teaches chemistry, environmental science, kayaking and cross country skiing at Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS). “It is one thing to read about, and another thing to see it in action.”

Gaw was among hundreds of people who celebrated the installation of the Colorado Rocky Mountain School solar array during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the school’s Carbondale campus on Tuesday. Those in attendance included Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, U.S. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass.

“It is obviously going to be a big help to the school,” Gaw said of the new solar system.

The CRMS science building, known as the Jossman Building, will use one third of the power generated by the system, while the rest will be purchased by Xcel Energy to be distributed to Carbondale customers.

Sunsense Inc., a Carbondale solar electric company, did the design work and is the general contractor for the project.

The system, which is expected to come online Tuesday, is the end result of a collaboration between Aspen Skiing Co., CRMS, the town of Carbondale, the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE) and local energy consultants.

Mike Kaplan, CEO and president of Aspen Skiing Co., said the work to put up the solar system was a “ginormous” accomplishment. He said it is the “first drop” in what he hopes will be a downpour for future collaborations in the state for alternative energy programs.

The idea behind the system, known locally as the “solar farm,” began with the town of Carbondale and CORE. Later, Skico jumped into the project and took over financing of the $1.1 million project.

Some of the motivations for Skico’s involvement were to help sustain Aspen’s image as an environmental leader in the ski industry and to make a concrete contribution to the company’s climate plan, according to previous Skico statements.

CRMS provided the land for the system and has agreed to buy power from the solar arrays. In return, the Skico will donate the entire project to the school in 20 years.

Garfield County also helped clear the way for the solar panel system’s installation by rezoning the property it now stands on and issuing a special use permit for its construction, said Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, a Republican.

He said the solar panel’s installation is a small step to help bolster the United States’ energy independence.

“It is just an example of working together and getting things done,” Martin said.

Jeff Leahy, CRMS’ head of school, said having the solar system on the school’s property is an opportunity for the school to practice “what we preach.”

“CRMS was founded on the principles of sustainability,” Leahy said.

Ritter, in remarks to the hundreds of people at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, stressed the need of a diverse energy portfolio that encourages projects like the one at CRMS to drive Colorado toward a “New Energy Economy” that will create jobs for the state.

“I think as a town, you have much to inform the rest of us,” said Ritter, referring to Carbondale’s many alternative energy efforts. “Carbondale is proof the ‘New Energy Economy’ is working.”

Valley Journal reporter Jeremy Heiman contributed to this report.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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