Gypsum approves solar array near the airport | VailDaily.com

Gypsum approves solar array near the airport

GYPSUM — Holy Cross Energy's proposal to build the largest solar panel array in the Eagle Valley was approved by the town of Gypsum this week, clearing the way for construction to begin on a structure that will cover approximately 1 acre at the electric cooperative's property located south of the Eagle County Regional Airport.

The 28-piece array — which features 21 modules per array — will generate approximately 220,000 kilowatts annually, or enough energy to power 18 to 20 local households, according to Chris Hildred, of Holy Cross Energy. The array credit will be applied to the company's low income assistance program, which provides electric bill relief to qualified co-op members throughout the company's service area. Dollar credits based on the array's electricity production will be assigned to qualified members to reduce electric bills for a two-year period. Additionally, Holy Cross will work with local nonprofit organizations and government programs to provide weatherization assistance to those members.

Fairly modest

While the array will be the largest structure of its type in this area, Hildred noted it is a fairly modest project compared to other solar arrays that Holy Cross operates. For example, the company's array located south of the Garfield County Regional Airport is about 10 times larger than the Gypsum project. Grid Alternatives Colorado Inc. will build the array. Hildred noted the company recently was awarded a grant to build six solar arrays for electric cooperatives in the state and the company's grant will cover $200,000 of the construction costs. Holy Cross will pay approximately $250,000 for construction and connection of the array.

Hildred said the project addresses one of the goals set by the Holy Cross Energy board of directors.

"Our board has set a voluntary policy of reaching 35 percent for clean and renewable sources by 2015," Hildred said. "Last year we saw 26 percent of our retail sales from eligible sources."

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Holy Cross's clean energy goals exceed the benchmarks set by the state, which call for 10 percent of retail sales from eligible source by 2020.

Low key

The array will be located at 132 Buckhorn Valley Blvd., adjacent to residential and commercial uses. However, Hildred said the visual impact of the structure should be minimal.

The panels are only 8.5 feet tall and a 6.5-foot berm separates the site from other uses. Hildred added the company has notified the airport about the plan to address any concerns that might arise.

"Where they put these things is key in terms of whether people support them or not," said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll of the array project. He said town officials believe the array will have little impact on neighboring properties.

"Hopefully, the project will be good for the customers in the cooperative which is, of course, all of us," said Shroll.