Officials from the town of Breckenridge, the High Country Conservation Center and the Clean Energy Collective gathered at the empty Stilson property in Breckenridge yesterday afternoon. Surrounded by a small crowd, they grabbed shovels and dug into the earth as part of the Breckenridge Ullr Solar Array groundbreaking ceremony.
The event kicked off the construction of a 500-kilowatt solar garden designed to allow local businesses, residents and local governments to invest in renewable energy.
“It opens up the access for anyone in the community to buy clean power in Summit County without having to put panels on their house,” said HC3’s executive director Jen Schenk.
The local nonprofit leader said the project came to fruition because of a high interest from the public, the support of the town of Breckenridge and the expertise of the Clean Energy Collective.
“We really went out and tried to gauge public interest in the project and had tons of citizens who showed up to forums who were interested in learning about the project,” Schenk said. “We’ve also had local businesses and local governments interested in buying panels.”
Construction at the site, at 710 Wellington Road, is due to be completed later this summer, and panel owners will see a power credit on their utility bill as soon as the array goes online.
Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said the groundbreaking event marked a milestone more than a decade in the making.
“This groundbreaking represents another step to our sustainability goal, which we started in about 2008 that all emanates from our vision plan in 2002,” he said during the ceremony. “Here we are moving forward realizing some of the visions and goals that we put together regarding sustainability.”
The Clean Energy Collective is the private-sector business responsible for building the solar array. The company has 19 community solar gardens, either complete or under construction in Colorado, said Tom Sweeney, CEC chief operating officer. Five percent of the solar capacity being built will be donated to low-income beneficiaries, he said.
The Ullr Garden is one of two solar installations planned for Breckenridge. The southernmost garden, being built at 710 Wellington Road, is being named after the Norse god of snow.
Pending final approval by the Breckenridge planning commission, the second solar garden, slated to be built on the McCain property north of Breckenridge, will be named Sol after the Norse goddess of the sun, Warner announced.
The Clean Energy Collective is taking deposits for panel purchases on a first-come, first-served basis. Each 235-Watt panel is $870, with a minimum purchase of five panels. Breckenridge residents and businesses will receive a 10 cent per watt rebate. The Clean Energy Collective can be reached at (800) 646-0323.