Community solar garden celebrates the launch of the pilot program

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Grand Junction, COLO. The community solar garden project that Grand Valley Power and the non-profit solar organization – GRID Alternatives— teamed up for is up and running.

People from all over Colorado, California, and as far as Texas came out to help put the final touches on project that 8 low-income families in Mesa County qualified for. Those families, leaders, and hundreds of volunteers celebrated the pilot project that has sparked a nationwide interest.

"I'm very excited that the bill is going down, especially in the summer months," said Brenda Lange.

Lange is one of the 8 participants who will have their electricity bill reduced by up to 90%. "I've been checking into it for a couple of years, but everywhere we went we couldn't afford it,” she said.

The solar panels installed today are exclusively for the use of those families.

"Solar power generation is an idea whose time has come," said Tom Welch, General Manager of Grand Valley Power.

He says the idea to team up with GRID Alternatives is one he quickly saw came to life.

"We were sitting at a brew pub talking about the idea over a beer, and less than a year later we'll be flipping the switch on this this afternoon, and that power will be going to those needy consumers," said Welch.

It wasn't just Grand Valley Power and GRID Alternative leaders who made it all happen. It took plenty of dedicated hands from more than 150 volunteers from around the state and the country.

"There was a lot of work behind the scenes making it happen. The last two days have been boots on the ground," said Welch.

One of those volunteers came from Dallas, Texas. She spends a lot of time doing research on solar energy, but she wanted to take a break from the books, and get a hands on-experience this weekend.

“It's made me even more excited since I've been here, and putting my hands on it – to want to go out and say – ‘look, this can be done, let's go out and do it, come on people let's jump on board,’” said Cynthia Silverthorne.

Silverthorne wants to bring the idea back home to Texas, to help families who can't afford renewable energy.

112 panels were put on today's array, but Grand Valley Power wants to use the empty space in the garden, to expand the amount of arrays.

Housing Resources of Western Colorado helped identify the 8 families that will save big bucks in their electric bill.

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