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Construction Set to Begin on Solar Garden

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Updated: Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:44:49 MST

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - In just a few days, construction crews will break ground on a solar garden, unlike any other on the Western Slope. The project has been in the making for two years and partners are ready to see it finally get off the ground. Officials say it will be well worth the wait, will savings in the millions expected.

What is now an empty lot, will soon bloom with energy.

"A community solar garden is very new, new to Colorado and very new to the solar industry," said Eric Anderson, energy manager for School District 51.

The project is a reflection of the district's renewable energy goals.

"It's an economic responsibility to the community, to the taxpayers, as well as an environmental responsibility," Anderson said.

District 51 owns the 10 acre property and a solar company will pay to the lease the land. Annually the district will receive about $12,000 in rent, and save about $60,000.

District 51 will subscribe to 40 percent of the energy produced. The City of Grand Junction will subscribe to 23 percent. Mesa County will likely be another subscriber as well as Alpine Bank and the Grand Junction Housing Authority.

Kathy Portner, with the City of Grand Junction, said, "On a monthly basis we will purchase that power from the solar garden for a variety of our facilities, and then in turn we'll actually get a credit from Xcel Energy for that power that we're purchasing."

Over the next 20 years, the city expects it will save about $2 million dollars.

"This is the first in Mesa County in Xcel's district and this is the largest installation on the Western Slope for a solar garden," said Portner.

It's a garden that will keep on giving, radiating cost savings across the valley.

There will be a total of 6,666 panels in the solar garden. Construction is scheduled to begin April 21 and completed in early July.

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