Rec Center Solar Project Ready to Shine

{ December 29th, 2011 }

ALAMOSA — Alamosa’s recreation center will soon be partially powered by the sun.

Custom Solar completed a 101-killowatt solar project this week that will provide a portion of the power needs for the rec center. Custom Solar Owner Willie Mein, PE, said the system would be turned on in about a week, on January 6.

The approximately $360,000 project employed many local individuals and companies while under construction in the last month, and Mein said he was impressed by the quality of workmanship afforded locally.

“People were motivated to work. It was great to see,” he said.

“We hired over a dozen local folks to help us with the installation.”

He said the competence of the local work force was outstanding.

Mein called Jessie Lopez with Lopez Electric the project’s “most valuable player,” and said he hoped Custom Solar can work with Lopez Electric on additional projects in the San Luis Valley in the future. Custom Solar is currently bidding on another local solar project and hopes to return.

Mein also praised Justin Clark who performed many tasks on the project including running heavy machinery.

“He was our guy on the job in the field.”

Custom Solar rented a great deal of equipment from J&J Rentals locally and appreciated doing business with American Electric, Monte Vista Cooperative, Southwest Ready Mix, Alamosa Lumber, Big R and others.

Mein also praised a crew out of Crestone run by Jason Anderson.

Mein was also impressed by the professionalism and accessibility of the city staff.

“The city manager and building inspector have all been outstanding,” Mein said. “It’s our experience as contractors and solar installers the permitting process can be very difficult and we found it to be really accommodating here. It’s been a breath of fresh air to work with the local city government. They have been fantastic, accessible, service oriented, reasonable, nice and available. It couldn’t have gone better.”

The project itself provided some challenges with cold weather during construction in the last four weeks, and a trench had to be dug 1,000 feet from the solar installation site behind the ball fields to the rec center, but the local work force and construction community more than made up for any difficulties, Mein said.

The 442 photovoltaic panels encompassing 17 arrays are set up on a 100×325-foot area. Total capacity of the system is 101.66 KW which can produce 172,374 kilowatt hours per year at a retail value of $20,685, by Mein’s conservative estimate.

Environmentally, this project takes the place of 15,250 pounds of coal on a monthly basis and prevents a great deal of carbon dioxide and harmful chemicals from entering the atmosphere and 10,675 gallons of water from being consumed.

“I am a believer in solar,” Mein said. “It’s why we do it.”

Custom Solar, headquartered in Boulder, has been in business about four years and installs both residential and commercial systems. The project for the Alamosa recreation center is the first the company has constructed in Alamosa “and hopefully not our last,” Mein said. “We are looking at some other projects.”

Although this system will not provide all of the rec center’s power needs, it will help, Mein explained.

The City of Alamosa had initially considered a solar parking structure like a carport in a portion of the recreation center parking lot. It would have provided some of the rec center’s power needs as well as a covered area for outdoor events. Mein said that was a novel idea and he would still be interested in pursuing a project like that. As financial arrangements progressed, the project evolved from a parking structure to a separate solar array. Custom Solar remained as the solar installer.

Mein commended Mayor Kathy Rogers and the rest of city council for not scrapping the project but moving forward with an alternative.

Custom Solar owns the solar facility but the city has contracted to purchase the power generated from it.

Posted: Wednesday, Dec 28th, 2011
BY: Ruth Heide, Courier editor

If comments are closed.

Comments are closed.