Grand County groups seek federal grant to fix solar energy systems | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County groups seek federal grant to fix solar energy systems

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

A citizen group with the aim of attracting stimulus energy dollars to Grand County has set sights on senior-housing buildings in Granby.

In 1980, a federally subsidized housing development called the Grand Living Senior Solar Homes was built with mounted solar technology that captured 40-60 percent energy savings on utility bills, according to records from that time.

But in the late 1980s, maintenance crews began documenting problems with the system. Around 1996, the pump-back heating system was drained and never used again.

Now interested parties may be taking a stab at kick-starting the long-neglected solar potential.

The group Energy Opportunities in Grand County, Colorado, has committed to searching out federal energy dollars to fix the solar panels and system at the Grand Living Senior housing.

Since the buildings are owned by the Grand County Housing Authority, Liz McIntyre of Granby and Becky McBride of Grand Lake gained permission from the Grand County commissioners on Tuesday to move forward with writing the necessary grant.

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McBride, executive director of the Business and Economic Development Association (BEDA) that serves all of Grand County, plans to submit the grant under BEDA’s nonprofit – which commissioners deemed a “good fit” for managing recovery funds.

A solar Senior Living project would “create jobs and promote economic recovery in the community,” McBride said.

The housing facility was targeted for being “a good showcase piece. It’s highly community-oriented, servicing seniors in all of Grand County. And it fits under the guidelines of renewable energy,” she added.

As much as $2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is being made available through a state “New Energy Economic Development” grant.

It’s one of several streams of money that will be made available through the Governor’s Energy Office, McBride said.

She and McIntyre are coordinating with solar heating experts in the community to pinpoint how much the project would cost.

But according to McBride, “These people helping us with pricing, it doesn’t mean they get the job.” If an award is granted to fix the solar homes “any elements that need to be done must be sent out to bid,” she said of the grant’s stipulations.

Grand Living Senior Homes has three separate buildings with a total of 13 solar panels, each composed of 11 2-by-14 foot solar collectors. In its day – during the peak of America’s incentives to tap into solar energy after the energy crisis of the ’70s – the building’s solar aspects heated potable water and supplied heat to living spaces.

Colorado School of Mines students were invited to study the buildings’ systems in 2006. From their studies, the students estimated it would take at least $20,000 to revamp the system.

The “New Energy Economic Development” grant application is due in less than two weeks and is scheduled to be awarded the third week in November. If dollars come to Grand County, the solar homes project could start as early as late November.

“We have a lot to pull together in a short amount of time,” McBride said. “We’ll probably be burning the midnight oil for a few nights.”

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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