Crime has a sunny side

Justice Center to install 150 solar panels at cost of $220K

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— The new Routt County Justice Center will have 150 solar panels on its roof.

Tim Winter, Routt County's building and plant director, announced this week that photovoltaic panels generating 26.25 kilowatts of energy will be installed at the justice center west of downtown for a cost of $220,000. That cost will be repaid to the county, Winter said, by a 20-year contract with Xcel Energy. Xcel will pay the county for renewable energy credits generated from the estimated 37,880 kilowatts of energy the photovoltaic panels will produce every year.

"The reduction in energy used at the justice center as well as excess power that can be sold to Xcel are anticipated to make payback of the total system in approximately 18.5 years," according to a report prepared by Winter.

According to Jerry Nettleton, environmental manager at Twentymile Coal Co. in West Routt County, the average person uses 3,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in one year. A household with a statistical average of 2.8 people uses 8,400 kwh per year.

The contract is an example of a statewide boost in renewable energy generation touted by state and federal officials.

On Wednesday, newly-inaugurated Gov. Bill Ritter unveiled a plan to expand renewable energy generation and use in Colorado. The plan includes forthcoming legislation to create incentives for businesses and homeowners that install renewable energy systems; incentives for biofuel development projects in Colorado colleges and universities; and requirements for large municipal utilities, and producers such as Xcel Energy, to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, a Manassa Democrat, voted for the Clean Energy Act, which would create a federal reserve fund for investing in renewable energy and alternative fuels.

"This vote is very important to rural America," Salazar said. "Agriculture is the backbone of our country's renewable energy supply. Just yesterday, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter stood with state leaders to unveil an aggressive energy agenda to make Colorado the nation's leader in renewable energy. State leaders have everything they need, thanks to rural Colorado for providing the foundation for growing and developing renewable energy fuels."

Salazar's brother, Democratic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, also spoke Thursday about the importance of renewable energy.

"We are introducing the Set America Free legislation once again," Sen. Salazar said, referring to a Congressional resolution setting a goal to generate 25 percent of the United States' energy supply from renewable sources by 2025.

"From a policy point of view, this is one of the most important issues for the United States," Ken Salazar said.

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