Routt County Jail adds solar panels | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County Jail adds solar panels

Solar panels installed this week on the roof of the Routt County Jail will be used to help preheat the facility’s hot water. The panels were paid for with a $175,000 federal grant.





Solar panels installed this week on the roof of the Routt County Jail will be used to help preheat the facility's hot water. The panels were paid for with a $175,000 federal grant.
Matt Stensland

— Routt County's latest energy conservation project has given the Routt County Sheriff's Office a new look.

A $175,000 federal grant paid for the 24 solar panels installed on the roof that will preheat the hot water used at the Routt County Jail, which shares a 28,000-square-foot building with the Sheriff's Office and Routt County Communications. The solar thermal installation is part of a larger $1.6 million energy-conservation project implemented in county buildings, said Tim Winter, the county's purchasing director. The upgrades are expected to pay for themselves in about 14 years and include new efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems at the jail.

With an estimated $101,092 in energy savings annually, the county could reduce its electricity and gas consumption by about 21 percent.

The new panels at the jail work by heating a liquid inside the panels and transferring that heat to domestic water. Natural gas still will be used to supplement the heating of water used for the jail's showers, kitchen and laundry facility.

With relatively low natural gas prices currently, Winter said the system is expected to save about $2,000 in natural gas during the first year. That savings is expected to double with expected increases in the cost of natural gas.

The solar project was paid for using a federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act New Energy Economic Development grant. The county applied for the grant through the Governor's Energy Office, and it was awarded in June.

"I'm just glad to see we're doing all we can to be more green and environmentally friendly," Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said.

Solar panels are one of the more visible signs of the county's energy-conservation efforts.

The Routt County Justice Center opened in September 2007 with 165 solar panels that produce electricity installed on the roof.

After nearly four years in operation, the panels have performed as expected, producing about 37 megawatts of electricity each year, Winter said.

The panels provide about 10 percent of the building's power, and Xcel Energy has paid the county about $34,000 for renewable-energy credits, Winter said. The panels also have reduced energy costs by about $45,000.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com