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Cortez Sanitation District may go solar at lift stations

District members consider installing solar panels
Solar panels on the roof of Cortez City Hall. The panels provide about 13 percent of the electricity for the building.

The Cortez Sanitation District is considering an installation of solar panels to save money on energy.

During the district’s meeting on Monday, the board of directors met with John Shaw, of Durango-based company Shaw Solar, to discuss the pros and cons of using solar panels to power its sewer lift stations. The board is considering a possible lease-purchase agreement with Shaw, similar to one the city of Cortez signed in 2016 to install solar panels at City Hall.

The directors did not make a decision about the solar panels on Monday, but they agreed to research the topic and bring it up again at future meetings.

Shaw estimated the panels would save the district about 5 percent of its current energy costs. The panels also come with a 25-year warranty, which could save money on repairs and replacements.

“One of the neat things about solar is ... less obsolescence,” Shaw said. “If you buy an iPhone today, it doesn’t work in four years, and if you buy a new computer, it lasts 10 years if you’re lucky. Solar, if it’s making your power, it’s making your power.”

He said he believed his company’s solar panels would improve the energy efficiency of the lift stations, and added that the installation would leave space for new panels to be added in the future if necessary.

The district has the option of purchasing the panels outright, leasing them for 25 years or leasing them for six years and then purchasing them at a reduced rate. Some directors said they weren’t sure the savings would be enough to make up for the cost of installing the panels if the district chose to purchase them.

Board president Ryan Griglak suggested they speak with staff from the city of Cortez to find out how well their solar panel installations are working so far. Director Jim Candelaria expressed concern about the cost of an upfront purchase, but he said he liked the 25-year lifespan of the panels and thought installing them would be good for the environment.

“Five percent is five percent,” he said. “If we can do the right thing for the carbon footprint, that’s a very good thing to do.”

District manager Jan Nelson said she would research other solar companies in the region to see whether any of them might offer better deals.

During the meeting, the board also voted to approve Luann Meyer as the election official for the district’s 2018 election. Board members unanimously approved the purchase of a new van, camera and sewer line rapid assessment tool, which were in the district’s budget. They also approved a change in meeting times for this year to allow an hour-long workshop before meetings. Regular meetings will now begin at 6:30 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

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