Solar panels will offer savings on riding arena utility costs

October 18, 2010

The installation of solar panels to power the Garfield County Fairgrounds Riding Arena got the go-ahead from the Board of County Commissioners October 18. The project will result in a dramatic 53% reduction in utility costs for the first year for the county facility. In addition, Garfield County will receive a little less than $8,000 in Renewable Energy credits per year for the term of a twenty year contract, through Xcel Energy’s Solar Renewable Energy Credit (REC) payments.

Each kilowatt hour used for the riding arena will cost 2.25 cents, compared to the current 4.8 cents. This is expected to bring down the cost of power to the arena by $6936 per year initially, and will set the county in place to pay a flat 2.25 cent/kilowatt hour over a 20-year span, voiding the effect of energy market fluctuations on county utility bills for the facility.
“The impact is greater than just utility savings,” said Sol Energy, LLC Business Development Manager Katharine Rushton. “With the REC payment of $7944 to Garfield County factored in, the combined net income and savings is $11,641 for the first year. And each year the savings will increase, due to the increase in market costs for electricity. The county may well save $306,881 over twenty years if costs of electricity escalate by 5% a year.”

The project is funded through a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant awarded to Garfield County in the amount of $82,500. The county contract award to Sol Energy, LLC, and Rockwell Financial Group provides that Garfield County will have no out-of-pocket costs for the panels or installation after the DOLA grant is applied. The two companies will spend about $384,560 to install the photovoltaic system, to which the $82,500 DOLA grant will be applied.

In the agreement, Rockwell Financial Group will pay for the system, and the county will have the right to purchase the system at fair market value after seven years. In exchange, the financial company will get valuable tax credits of its own.

The modules will be installed on the roof of the indoor arena to power the lights, office equipment, professional kitchen and mechanical equipment. “The county chose this facility to apply the DOLA grant funds to because the arena is a high–energy consumer and has sufficient roof space,” said Garfield County Senior Contract Administrator Gene Duran.

“It is great all around,” said Duran. “The project uses a grant we received, it will generate $8,000 year in renewable energy credits coming back to the county, plus we will get a major reduction in cost per kilowatt hour.”

The DOLA grant was awarded to Garfield County through the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative to develop a renewable energy demonstration project. It may later include an educational monitoring component to present how much power is being generated through a website online.