Double the sun at solar greenhouse
NEW CASTLE Lynn Dwyer does more than just raise plants in her greenhouses. She also cultivates the power of sunlight to make heat and electricity.Dwyers business is taking advantage of solar in a big way even for a greenhouse. Last fall and winter, she installed more than $100,000 worth of solar energy equipment at Dwyer Greens & Flowers, which is located on a former 160-acre homestead up a mile-long dirt road southwest of Apple Tree Park outside New Castle.Rebates from Holy Cross Energy and Xcel Energy covered $45,000 of the cost. Put those together with tax credits, and 80 percent of Dwyers initial investment will be reimbursed.That doesnt take into account the savings in electric bills. Dwyer already has received a check from Holy Cross when the greenhouse generated more energy than it used. Her January electric bill was less than for the same month a year earlier, even though Dwyer had added a third greenhouse.Dwyer has had a 56-panel, 9-kilowatt photovoltaic system installed to generate electricity, which is especially needed in the summer when fans and swamp coolers must be used in the greenhouses. In addition, a rooftop solar thermal system heats water that can provide radiant heat in a warehouse, warm plant roots or keep gutters de-iced.Dwyers alternative energy efforts are in keeping with her environmental ethics and lifestyle, and desire to reduce the carbon footprint of the business, she said.Look whats happening with fuel and gas (prices). I think more people should get into renewable energy, Dwyer said. I think its the right thing to do. We plan to do more.Possibilities include adding more solar energy and installing a geoexchange system that uses underground pipes to heat or cool buildings.Another environmentally minded action helped make Dwyers first foray into alternative energy possible. Dwyer and her husband, Patrick, put 80 of their acres into a conservation easement that protects it from ever being developed. In return, they received tax credits that they were able to sell, using the proceeds to pay for the solar energy systems and build some employee housing.Dwyer said the couple eventually may put another 50 or 60 acres into an easement.Another environmental goal of Dwyers is to take her business back to being certified organic. Already, she uses all-organic pesticides and herbicides, she said, but lot of her plants are grown in small containers, and organic fertilizers easily leach out of them. Also, organic fertilizers such as fish emulsions can gum up injectors that deliver them to the plant roots.Such lessons have been just part of the learning experience for Dwyer. A former wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, she moved with her husband to their current home about nine years ago and they opened their adjacent business just months later. It started out selling all-organic produce to grocery stores and restaurants, but Dwyer found it hard to compete with suppliers from places such as California. Over time the business evolved to growing flowers and other plants for landscaping.Theyre all selected and grown for this area, for western Colorado. All are adapted to our crummy soils, Dwyer said.
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