Building your own power plant |

Building your own power plant

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyJason Weingast of Active Energies stands next to solar panels at a home in Edwards.

EDWARDS ” Just moments after 30 solar panels were installed on the roof of Laurie Caradonna’s house in Edwards, you could see her meter turning backwards.

It will become a common sight on sunny days. Especially when the kids are out of the house, and the sun is overhead without a cloud in the sky, her family will actually be putting electricity back in the grid.

“When you see how it’s baking down here, why not take advantage of the sun?” Caradonna said.

More and more people like the Caradonnas are producing their own renewable energy in Colorado, and that number is growing at a staggering rate.

Holy Cross Energy saw the number of renewable energy generators in their grid ” like solar power, hydroelectric and wind ” quadruple from 2005 to 2006. And now, in July 2007, they’ve already installed as many as they did throughout 2006, said Craig

Tate, a members service representative with Holy Cross.

This growth closely follows a rejuvinated interest in environmentalism the nation has seen over the past two years. It’s been a big flurry of carbon offsets, wind farms, organic cleaners and that Al Gore movie bullhorning the dangers of global warming.

And now, more people than ever are putting down the really big money to become their own power plants.

As going green has become more mainstream , there’s been a big push for all the little and inexpensive things ” installing compact florescent lights, programmable thermostats, recycling, driving less, taking the bus, car pooling and using low-flow shower heads. The list could go on.

Solar power and all its renewable energy brothers and sisters though are big investments ” investments that many people can’t afford, and investments that could take 25 years to pay back through energy savings, Tate said.

Really, that means most people installing these systems aren’t doing it for the economics. They want to make a difference, he said.

“It’s a way for people to really outwardly show their dedication to renewable energy,” Tate said. “I think a lot of people see it as almost like a flagship of being green and being of a renewable energy mindset.”

Jason Weingast with Active Energies, the company that installed the Caradonnas’ solar panel system, also notices his customer’s readiness to jump on the bandwagon.

“You see it” it’s flashy,” he said. “You’re definitely making a statement.”

Caradonna says the savings over time will be a nice thing, but she and her husband,Tony, just wanted to give back to the environment.

“We have too much sun here to waste,” she said. “It’s always been in the back of our minds.”

What pushed them to make the plunge was seeing how far solar energy has come in terms of aesthetics. The panels don’t look as big and ugly as they used to, she said.

It also helps that Holy Cross Energy started offering rebates for people building renewable energy generators ” which is much appreciated with systems costing more than $20,000, said Megan Gilman, president of Active Energies.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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