Solar educators on tap for Talking Green event |

Solar educators on tap for Talking Green event

Suzie Romig/For Steamboat Today/

Butcherknife Brewing Company co-owner Nate Johansing is so supportive of solar energy that he’s bringing the beer to encourage other locals to show up and learn more about solar installation opportunities.

The brewmaster is part of a team of local business sponsors working together to present a Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Talking Green educational event about the latest technology, grants, federal tax credits and local success stories for solar-powered electricity.

The YVSC Talking Green event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 17 at Moots Cycles at 2545 Copper Ridge Drive, which has its own 42-panel solar electric system. Speakers will include representatives from two local solar installation companies, who will discuss residential and commercial systems, and from Louisville-based Clean Energy Collective that built the Craig solar array, which has 20 percent remaining for sale.

Johansing and co-owner Mark Fitzgerald will purchase a 12.3-kilowatt solar system for their beer-making headquarters to be installed by the end of this year. Johansing said the project is made possible by a $18,662 USDA Rural Energy for America Program grant, a 30-percent federal tax credit and a small business loan from Yampa Valley Bank.

“We are really excited. We wrote it in our mission statement to be environmental advocates,” said Johansing, whose brewery opened in June 2014 on Elk River Road. “The movement in the craft brewing industry to be extremely aware of what is around us and to do as much as we can to use locally.”

The brewmaster has a history of promoting environmental stewardship, such as work with a local biodiesel co-op. His company sources up to 70 percent of brewery hops from southern Colorado and 40 percent of its yeast from Woodland Park. The spent hop plants are sent up the road to Yampa Valley Farms for pig feed.

With the heat produced from making beer and the new building’s tight envelope, the brewery owners rarely needed to turn on the room heating system last winter. Conduit was installed during initial construction in preparation for a later solar electric system, which is expected to cover 20 percent of the electricity needs, said Susan Holland, with solar installer Emerald Mountain Energy in Steamboat Springs.

The system will include 44 solar electric modules made by SolarWorld.

Johansing said installing solar power is another step toward collective sustainability efforts in the local community to prepare for the future when fossil fuels are more expensive.

“Renewable energy really needs to be part of modern-day entrepreneurship,” Johansing said. “It’s really not that expensive, and you are building more equity into your building as an investment in those assets. If we do it all together in small steps, down the road it will create a much better framework to make bigger changes.”

According to the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, Colorado ranks ninth in the country for installed solar capacity at 430 megawatts, or the equivalent of power for 82,000 homes.

Some $212 million was invested on solar installations in Colorado in 2014, and average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices in the state have fallen by 24 percent in the past year, according to CoSEIA.

Suzie Romig is energy outreach coordinator for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.

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