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.

Photo by Matt Stensland

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.

Routt County Jail adds solar panels


— 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


captnse 5 years, 6 months ago

So you save $2000 dollars the first year on natural gas . our federal goverment lends you $175000. You state that panels will be paid for by energy savings after just 14 long do solar panels last and maitance cost?What is the rate of return on investment? If gas rates are going up so much why don't you or other home owners put such a system on your homes? Do you remember when we tried that back in the 1980? Only federal was foolish enough to lend $ on such such a scam. The people selling those systems are all out of buisness and left Stmbt sp.The system cost much more than the savings . Likewise with solarvoltaics on new courthouse. What is rate of return on investment?and please return savings after paying on principal , to our federal government from whom you recieved my tax dollars. Did you study math in college? & OR which college did you go to? More goverment Squandering????


ybul 5 years, 6 months ago

Hydronic geothermal is the only system that pays beck a decent rate of return today for heating systems. Wind turbines are the only ones that pay back for electricity, though without major investment up and down the plains from Texas to ND there will not be a consistent base load because of wind variability.

Too bad the government does not like geothermal as it will ultimately decrease taxes as the loop fields have 200-300+ year lifespans and the units themselves last as long as traditional systems. Their reduction in energy consumption really hurts the tax base though because the system reduces energy consumption quite a bit.

Should move towards the fair tax system as was analyzed as the best way to have an equitable tax system without loopholes for this that or the other.


JJ Southard 5 years, 6 months ago

This is to help power their medical marijuana garden in the basement. I knew it! Everyone's in on it! ;)


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