Steamboat Springs Some unions seem so natural the only surprise is they hadn’t happened already.
Like extra seat padding and marathon bike races, like a need for durability and titanium frames, Moots Cycles now has 42 solar panels atop its roof on Copper Ridge Drive. The system was installed by Emerald Mountain Energy and aided by federal and state grants and a federal tax credit that, together, will provide about 75 percent of the system’s $68,000 cost.
The alternative energy system is expected to be operational by next month and produce more than 13,000 kilowatt-hours annually, offsetting more than 10 percent of the building’s total energy. Moots spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer said the solar-panel system would save Moots about $1,500 in electricity costs annually at its 15,000-square-foot factory and office facility on Steamboat Springs’ west side.
Susan Holland, of Emerald Mountain Energy, said the system’s optimal life span is 25 years, but the panels could continue producing energy for twice that.
Holland said the Moots Cycles installation signals an expansion of the local solar-panel industry to privately owned, commercial buildings. Emerald Mountain has installed panels on about 20 residences and 10 public buildings across Routt County. Public buildings include Bud Werner Memorial Library, the post office in Phippsburg and The Lowell Whiteman School.
The commercial market now could be expanding. Holland said BAP soon would have panels installed on its “little red house” on Oak Street downtown.
Moots President Rob Mitchell and operations manager Mike Sanders said the solar panels reflect environmental ethics shared by Moots ownership and employees.
“It fits with what we are,” Sanders said. “We don’t make bikes that fall apart — we like things that last a long time.”
Standing on the Moots roof Thursday morning, Mitchell talked about companywide recycling practices and pointed out a small community garden below.
“The values of Moots are very much in tune with the values of employees here,” Mitchell said.
Sanders said he was inspired by last year’s Sustainability Summit, presented by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. Moots also has been active in the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s Sustainable Business Program.
But he acknowledged — saying “you have to take business into account in all things” —that the solar system’s cost would have been prohibitive without the grants. So Sanders worked with Holland to acquire $17,500 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Solar Power America program and $13,545 from the Governor’s Energy Office in Colorado. Wiedemer said the solar-panel system would qualify for a 30 percent federal tax credit, as well.
“Without grants, we wouldn’t have been able to pull the trigger,” Sanders said. “On its own, it wasn’t going to be economically feasible at this time.”
Wiedemer said because the system will provide only 10 to 12 percent of Moots’ electricity needs, it likely won’t enable participation in Yampa Valley Electric Association’s net metering program. The program allows electricity users to “bank” excess energy production for future use, YVEA spokesman Jim Chappell said.
Chappell said Thursday that only 21 of YVEA’s 26,000 customers have alternative energy sources on the YVEA grid.
“We have 19 solar (photovoltaic) systems and two wind facilities,” he said.
Chappell said the two wind turbines are well south of Steamboat — one in South Routt County, about a mile south of Finger Rock, and the other farther down Colorado Highway 131, near the town of Burns.
Mitchell expressed hope that use of solar panels and other alternative energy sources eventually will become much more commonplace.
“It shouldn’t be a newsworthy item,” he said.