Farmers harness solar energy

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GRAND JUNCTION Colorado has about 300 days of sunshine per year. Even throughout winter some of the best days on the slopes are sunny days. So what if you could harness that energy to help run a business? Many Grand Valley farmers are doing it and they say it's paying off.

Teresa High from High Country Orchards uses solar energy and she says instead of getting an electricity bill every month she actually receives a check from Xcel.

"We're earning money," High said. "We're harvesting the sun here, as well as our fruits and wines."

High Country Orchards and Colterris Winery have three different locations where they utilize solar energy; Their packing facility, which generates 119% of the energy they use, their tasting room, which generates 109% and their home, which brings in 200% of the energy they use. Their leftover energy is sold back to Xcel.

"What we are able to do is produce enough energy to lower our cost of business," High said.

High said prior to investing in a solar energy system for both her business and home, she did a lot of research to make sure her decision made financial sense.

One solar energy company says they expect to see electricity rates rise and anyone, especially farmers, can benefit from the renewable energy source.

"Farmers have to be resilient," Dale McClanahan from Atlasta Solar said. "That's just the nature of their business and so to put solar on their property to meet some of their power needs just makes them all the more resilient."

Atlasta says the switch to solar is not just a smart financial decision, but it's also a good move for the environment.

"I just think that's something we have to do for our future," McClanahan said. "The generation that I come from didn't realize what was happening to the environment while using all of this fossil fuel."

Within the last week, Atlasta installed solar panels in another small farm nearby. They say solar's popularity is growing in the Grand Valley.

"Solar just happens to be an additional little jewel on top of all the other opportunities that we have to grow and be in an agricultural community," High said.

The technology used at High Country Orchard is extremely cutting edge and efficient. The panels track the sun throughout the day to absorb the most rays possible.

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