Colorado’s Grand Valley sees green with solar garden and energy initiatives |

Colorado’s Grand Valley sees green with solar garden and energy initiatives

Brittany Markert
Carolee Hawkins, David Miller, Eric Anderson, Kathy Portner, and Amy Case stand in front of the solar garden near 29 and D roads in Grand Junction. Mesa County Valley School District 51, Alpine Bank, Grand Junction Housing Authority, City of Grand Junction and Mesa County all benefit from energy credits produced at the garden.
Brittany Markert / | Free Press


6,666 panels

2-megawatt system

40-percent share to Mesa County Valley School District 51

27-percent share to Mesa County

23-percent share to City of Grand Junction

5-percent share to Alpine Bank

5-percent share to Grand Junction Housing Authority

$24,600 in credits since November to District 51

$80,000-90,000 estimated savings for City

20-year lease on land and equipment

SOURCE: Mesa County Valley School District 51

Mesa County Valley School District 51, Alpine Bank, Grand Junction Housing Authority, City of Grand Junction and Mesa County are all benefiting from hefty credits to their energy bills. Approximately 6,666 solar panels were installed last summer as part of a 10-acre solar garden located near 29 and D roads in Grand Junction, and roughly two megawatts of energy will be generated annually.

According to Eric Anderson, District 51’s energy manager, land used by the solar garden is co-owned by District 51 and the City of Grand Junction. Equipment is rented from Exoplexus.

The group will use the solar garden for 20 years, with the option to renew the energy lease. District 51 also hopes to implement more roof-top solar panels on local schools to help with energy costs in the coming years.

According to David Miller of Alpine Bank, Grand Junction’s solar garden also brought much-needed jobs to the area, and it’s an education opportunity regarding Colorado’s burgeoning solar trade.

While the solar garden’s five users don’t use energy generated directly from the panels, they benefit from credits given by Xcel Energy. District 51 has a 40-percent subscription share, Mesa County has a 27-percent share, City of Grand Junction has a 23-percent share, plus Grand Junction Housing Authority and Alpine Bank have a 5-percent share.

District 51 has so far received $24,600 in credits since going “live” at the solar garden. To put the savings into perspective, those funds could pay annual energy bills for a school of Pear Park Elementary’s size. Expected savings for Mesa County’s school district are projected to be about $51,000 yearly. Kathy Portner, City of Grand Junction community developer, said the city’s annual savings will be around $80,000-$90,000 in credits from the garden. Grand Junction Housing Authority uses its credits to lower utility bills for those one of its housing communities.


Mesa County’s government offers green trash practices as well. They opened a composting facility where residents can purchase compost and wood mulch made on site. Materials accepted for compost include leaves, grass clippings, tree limbs, hay, cull fruit and stall bedding/manure. Mesa County residents can use the facility for free.

Mesa County Solid Waste Management office administrator Amber Swasey explained that the facility composts an average of 65 cubic yards per year, which in turn makes 15,000 cubic yards of compost. Compost is available for purchase in bulk or individual bags.

A spring compost sale starts on Tuesday, March 17, and it will run until March 28. Compost will cost $23.83 plus tax per cubic yard and $10 plus tax per cubic yard for wood mulch.

Mesa County Landfill also offers recycling bins for materials like rigid plastics (No. 1-7), glass-food containers, aluminum cans, corrugated cardboard, office paper, and more. Recycling drop-offs are free to Mesa County residents.

Facilities are located at 3071 U.S. Highway 50 in Grand Junction. The compost facility is open Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The recycling center is open Thursday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on local energy-saving initiatives, visit,, or

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