San Juan County takes a step forward in solar power

San Juan County increased solar power by millions of kilowatts starting Friday, July 22, as the San Juan County Fairgrounds’ recently installed solar panels were celebrated as officially operational.

“I am amped to be here today,” Christine Minney, San Juan County Council Chairwoman said as the crowd laughed.

Two 105 x 41-foot multi-grid solar systems are now soaking up the sun giving the fairground’s main building roof a classy new look. Over their estimated 30-year lifespan, the panels are projected to produce over 4.5 million kilowatt hours of energy and save the county over $700,000 in utility costs, Minney told the celebratory crowd.

During the first year, the panels will generate more than double the annual usage of the fairground’s facilities — roughly 158,000 kWh. This energy savings is roughly equivalent to offsetting CO2 emissions from 13 homes or charging 8,314,263 smartphones, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

According to a recent press release from the county, the project showcases the county’s long-term investment in renewable energy. After conducting a solar assessment in 2019, the county began dedicating funds for solar projects, and the panels at the fairgrounds, which cost about $310,000, are the first to draw from these funds.

“This stewardship of public funds indicates the council’s investment in green energy,” Minney said. “I’m excited to see this project lead the way for future renewable energy work.”

Attendees of the celebration cheered as Greg Swayer, San Juan County Facilities Director, and Minney symbolically flipped the switch.

“This is a great example of a successful public-private partnership,” Sawyer said in the county’s press release. “The county, school district, and OPALCO all worked together to make this project possible.”

Minney thanked all the participants of the project, including the previous council who were involved in the program’s inception.

“I am grateful to those who have not given up, considering how long it has taken,” San Juan County Fair Director Brandon Cadwell said.

Contributed photo by San Juan County
Fair building roof from above.

Contributed photo by San Juan County Fair building roof from above.