A sunny outlook
Solar panels are helping to make Westminster, Colorado's future a bright one.
Monday, December 7, 2009 - 23:03
REFLECTING BLUER SKIES: Westminster's new installation of solar panels will keep nearly half a million pounds of coal from being burned for electricity every year. (Photo: geneder/Flickr)
As a Colorado correspondent based along the state's Front Range, it's sometimes a little too easy to become a Boulder blogger.
True: the foothills city, which has become a ubiquitous environmental name in publications across the nation (a Time magazine article hailing another current Boulder eco-initiative introduced the city as "ever green"), has certainly deserved its reputation. It's home to America's greenest university, a number of famous outdoor and eco-friendly publications (and writers), and a population whose strong belief in environmental ethics -- whether composting in restaurants or supporting what is possibly the nation's highest concentration of Subaru vehicles -- could put even California to shame.
At the same time, Boulder isn't Colorado's only provider of eco-initiatives any more than it's the only city in the state. As much as I hold that greenest of green places dear, it's always refreshing to see other examples of what is being done on Colorado's environmental front -- particularly when they crop up in the city that I call home.
You may not have heard much about Westminster, Colo., but the northern Denver suburb has been taking significant strides to become a greener city. Westminster's city Web site emphasizes the environment as a priority, and the city has implemented a number of initiatives in order to ensure that it stays that way. The list of resulting services and policies is an impressive one, and the resources available for city residents range from free native tree giveaways to obtaining low-flush toilet rebates.
One recent eco-plan in particular, however, has helped Westminster's conservation efforts to truly shine. A July agreement between the city and Main Street Power enabled four recreational and public service centers to become host facilities for solar power panels. The decision will allow Westminster to incorporate renewable sources into its total energy use in a sizable way: over one thousand solar panels were installed in total, and their output is expected to top 400,000 kilowatt hours per year. Main Street Power installed the panels at no cost to Westminster, and while the energy won't be free (though the city states that the price for solar-generated electricity "is typically lower" than the cost of that which is purchased through local provider Xcel Energy), it will be clean -- making the savings even more significant. Taking into account the equivalent amount of coal needed to produce one kilowatt hour of electricity using conventional production methods, the energy Westminster will receive from the sun through its new solar panels will save the use of nearly 450,000 pounds of the black stuff every year.
Although the solar panels aren't slated to be online until the end of the year, the outlook of the agreement's impact is bright. Each of the participating facilities will feature an educational kiosk in its lobby providing real-time information on the solar energy being produced by the technology on its rooftop, providing an excellent opportunity to both educate public users and help directly involve them in the energy-saving process. Even for those residents who don't visit the facilities on a regular basis, 1,300 silver panels are hard to miss -- and their message will come through loud and clear: Westminster's latest eco-development is a shining example of the accessibility and importance of supporting the natural world. My hometown may not be in Colorado's (let alone the nation's) environmental spotlight, but it holds a deserving place in the sun.
For more information on Westminster's photovoltaic solar power agreement, check out the December/January issue of City Edition.
Thumbnail © Lauren Buchholz.
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