Solar Panel Pain

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This year students were challenged by High Noon Solar to design a solar panel. The prize is to have the panels donated to the school. The school district wasn't aware of the competition until it was over, and subsequently decided to decline the prize.

Katie Van Matre, Kassidy Muniz, and Dyson Winters are West Middle School Students, they stayed after school everyday for three months designing panels for renewable energy.

Winner Katie Van Matre says, "I’m happy we've got more solar panels in Grand Junction, I’m just kind of sad that they weren't put on the school." Instead West Middle Schools $20,000 prize in the form of solar panels was turned down by the school district and given to the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens.

School District 51 spokesperson says "the cost to repair the panels was ¾ of the savings." It’s estimated that the panels would have saved the school about $300 a year in energy costs, Kirtland says that after much debate the school district decided not to accept the panels for a few reasons. One, because the school doesn't get the rebates and they were worried about repairs, but Heidi Ihrke from High Noon Solar says repairs are part of the deal. She says, "the Xcel Energy rebates help us cover some of the costs, and we donate labor and products for the system."

Another problem the school district has is that they'd have to sign a 20 year contract with Xcel Energy, and that because West Middle School is 30 years old, they are afraid the panels would outlast the building. The school district holds a similar contract with Xcel for Chipeta Elementary, the school that's currently being built downtown. Kirtland says that since that schools solar system is bigger, the rebates will be bigger.

Educational signs will be placed by the solar components at botanical gardens as a solar learning center.

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