Flowers, herbs and trees arent the only beneficiaries of sunny Southwest Colorado days at Cliffrose Garden Center. The installation of a new solar array at the business has changed the appearance of the buildings pink facade and made the environmentally-friendly center even greener.
Over the past months, 44 solar panels were affixed to the roof of the business east of Cortez, providing enough solar-gathering potential to provided 100 percent of the business electrical needs, roughly 10.3 kilowatts. Recently, the system was officially linked into the grid, causing the Cliffrose electric meter to spin backward as the sun took over the work of providing electricity for the business.
Cliffrose owner Ric Plese said the installation of the panels on his business is the fulfillment of decades of interest in solar power.
Ive been thinking about doing solar power since I was a kid, Plese said in a phone interview Wednesday. Ive looked into doing it at my house, but it is surrounded by shade trees and not the most convenient. Cliffrose just makes sense.
The installation was handled by Durango-based Solar Works. Before panels ever arrived on the Cliffrose property, much work was done to find the right configuration for the local business.
The first thing we do is look at their electric usage to determine what size of a system is needed to offset 100 percent of their load, said Solar Works owner Derek Wadsworth, in a phone interview Wednesday. Once we know how many panels we need, we begin to look at what location at the business will be best for the panels.
Plese and Solar Works consultants decided to put the panels on the south side of the building, a location with multiple benefits.
The position made the most sense with the sun, but Ric was also really into showing the public what he was doing and why, Wadsworth said. The idea of solar power fits with the mission of a nursery, so we decided the front was a good spot.
It took crews a week and a half to install the array, almost an entirely U.S.-made system, according to Wadsworth. The panels are made in Tennessee, the racking and inverter from California. The American-made component of the system is important to Solar Works and Plese.
We are really into using as much American-made stuff as we can, Wadsworth said. That was important to Ric, as well, and we were able to do it.
After installation, the array underwent a state inspection before finally being tied into the local power grid by Empire Electric. Watching the electric meter spin backwards on Sept. 27, Plese said he was like a little kid.
Though the solar panels will provide all of the garden centers electricity in peak sunny months, winter months and high electrical use months November, December and January wont produce enough solar potential to power the building. Plese said he will rely on credit on the meter built up during the summer.
We dont have batteries so everything we get will be coming off the panels during the sunny hours of the day, Plese said. We are grid tied at night or any time we cant use the panels. Thats why we put extra panels on the building, but build that credit for usage times we dont have the sun.
While increasing in popularity, solar power systems are not inexpensive. A number of incentives exist, however, to make installation easier for home and business owners. Plese took advantage of state and federal financial incentives for the installation of the $62,000 project at Cliffrose. Thanks to grant money, Plese only had to fund 48 percent of the project himself, an investment he believes will be repaid in roughly seven years of use.
Plese said the move to solar energy for his business was not a risky step and is something that just makes total sense.
We are making use of something thats been running the planet for 3 billion years, he said. I just want to be as green as possible and it makes sense in our neck of the woods to use solar. It is clean, and in a sense I feel less guilty about belching power plants and wells. It takes away a little of my guilt on what I contribute to the planets demise.
Whats so cool is you look at the panels and they look so beautiful and it seems they are just sitting there. They dont look like they are working because they are not a belching loud machine or a smoking power plant, but they are just quietly collecting the sun and providing us power. It is just so great.
Reach Kimberly Benedict [email protected]