A rainy day in Cortez turns bright with solar


April 20, 2016

Despite storn clouds brewing in the west, almost 30 job trainees, students, Empire Electric Association staff, and members of the community volunteered to help install a 21kW community solar garden in Cortez, Colorado last weekend.

This project, in partnership with the Colorado Energy Office and Empire Electric Association, will serve five to 10 low-income qualified Cortez families, offsetting their electric usage and reducing their energy bills. “As a member-owned cooperative, Empire is concerned about the best interests of our members," says Empire General Management Josh Dillenger. "We see this low-income community solar project as an opportunity to positively impact the communities we serve."

Several Cortez residents who are applying to subscribe to the array volunteered with their friends and family.  “Oh man, I have learned so much!" said Laura, who volunteered on behalf of her mother, an applicant. "Copper wiring, grounding, the platforms that they put them on, the panels themselves look like pieces of cake. I think any program like this would be good for anyone, not just my mom. It helps offset some of the expenses that can be taken on when you’re older or low income, and any little bit helps.”
GRID engaged 11 students from a tribal school, Navajo Technical University (NTU), in New Mexico for practical hands-on job training and experience. NTU offers an Energy Systems Associates Degree and courses on photovoltaic system design and installation. The students had the opportunity to work and learn on an actual solar project and traveled 150 miles to Cortez to access this invaluable field experience. 

Additionally, four students and their teacher came from Montezuma-Cortez High School to volunteer. Teacher Adriana Brungardt brought students from her earth sciences course out to learn about community and land resources. The students enjoyed the positive atmosphere and organization, and expressed hopes that solar energy will continue to gain traction in Southwest Colorado. David, a senior, said "“We’re all working toward the same goals,” he said. “I hope Cortez continues to be involved with this."

Check out our Flickr albums for Friday, April 15th and Saturday, April 16th

GRID Alternatives provides photos for personal and internal use by our volunteers, sponsors and partners. If an individual or organization would like to use one of our photos for any other purpose, please send a request for permission to media@gridalternatives.org.