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Solar array will power Roaring Fork High

Will Grandbois
wgrandbois@postindependent.com
Sunsense's rendering of the planned solar array at Roaring Fork High School.
Staff Photo |

A student-initiated plan to install a 379-kilowatt solar array at Roaring Fork High School passed through the final stage of approval Wednesday night, with a unanimously favorable vote by the Roaring Fork School District board of education.

The array, made possible by a power purchase agreement with Sunsense Solar, is anticipated to cover 100 percent of the building’s annual electricity usage. Under the agreement, the district pays no up-front costs and will not own the system itself, but will purchase the power at a lower rate than from the grid. Sunsense estimates that the project will save $398,800 over its 20-year lifespan while preventing 9,226 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

“This is a beneficial model for everyone concerned, and particularly for the school district,” said Sunsense’s Katharine Rushton. “I think this demonstrates to students that we are taking measures to address climate change.”

Students will have an opportunity to use data from the array, which will be accessible through the Garfield County Energy Navigator, in their math and sciences classes.

“Here is an absolutely tangible example of students, faculty and the town stepping up and saying we’re going to do it here,”
Michael Hassig
former Carbondale mayor

Several sites were considered for the system, including rooftop and parking lot, but due to practical and financial constraints, it will occupy the hill to the south of the school. It is not anticipated to block the view of Sopris, and several green fencing options are being considered to minimize its visual impact.

The plan is backed by a unanimous vote by RFHS faculty and a resolution of support by the town.

Carbondale already hosts 701 kilowatts of solar on municipal buildings, schools and private homes, so the system will tip the town over the 1 megawatt mark.

It’s a big step toward the Garfield Clean Energy initiative to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent and generate 35 percent of electricity from renewables by 2020. Similar-sized systems are also slated for Battlement Mesa and Silt.

“Here is an absolutely tangible example of students, faculty and the town stepping up and saying we’re going to do it here,” former Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig said at a community meeting Monday night.

The students of Roaring Fork High School’s environmental club, who hatched the idea last year, agreed in their group statement at the same meeting.

“This project is a great opportunity for our school to have a positive effect on the world,” they said.


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