Clean Energy Collective, Craig community celebrate solar garden

Janelle O'Dea
Craig's first solar energy garden, constructed in late 2014, hosted a community tour of the garden Wednesday, Jan. 28.
Courtesy Photo

— Although the solar garden reception started just as the sun dropped behind the horizon, plenty of energy filled Cassidy’s Bar and Lounge on Wednesday night at the Clarion Inn and Suites.

The garden is a collaborative effort between the city of Craig, Clean Energy Collective and Yampa Valley Electric Association. CEC hosted the reception to celebrate finishing the 577-kilowatt system.

Those who rent or own property on YVEA’s electric grid can purchase one of the $825 panels. Each panel will save customers about $45 per year on electric bills. As of Oct. 8, customers had purchased 46 percent of the garden.

Craig Mayor Terry Carwile, YVEA General Manager Diane Johnson and CEC Chief Executive Officer Paul Spencer spoke at the reception and expressed gratitude at the ability to participate in a partnership that brings diversification to Craig’s energy blend.

“The project is small, but the impact potential is huge,” Carwile said.

At the same time the garden brings diversification to Craig’s energy sources, it also helps YVEA meet state regulations.

In June 2013, the Colorado Senate passed a bill that requires YVEA to have 20 percent of the energy in their portfolio come from renewable sources by 2020.

Spencer said his company approached YVEA years ago, but it just wasn’t the right time for the company to make the move. He was glad to see the change of heart when YVEA approached him in 2012.

“It became important to them,” Spencer said. “And others see it as momentous that Craig has engaged it as a viable solution.”

The entire state of Colorado has 359 megawatts of solar energy capacity, or enough to power 68,600 homes.

Carwile talked about touring the garden and seeing Craig Station’s smokestacks in the background, as well as his past employment in the coal industry and present pride in the garden.

“It’s been a grand opportunity for me to help facilitate a new energy project in this community,” Carwile said. “And I want to say in a broader sense that I believe that we should be energy leaders in this part of the state.”

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.

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