Grand Innovators starts with energy talk |

Grand Innovators starts with energy talk

A panel of local energy innovators spoke to recent projects in Grand County, including the installation of a new solar farm outside Fraser, on Tuesday evening at the Headwaters Center.
McKenna Harford /

Grand County’s recent efforts to improve energy efficiency were lauded at the first ever event hosted by a new group promoting innovation locally.

The Grand Innovators, a group of eight county residents who aim to foster conversations around the future of Grand, put on a panel to discuss energy innovation on Tuesday evening at the Headwaters Center.

“When most people think of energy, they don’t necessarily think of innovation,” said Kristen Taddonio, a Grand Innovators board member and moderator of the panel. “But there’s a lot that’s changing in the energy industry right now.”

The panel featured Commissioner Rich Cimino; Scott Simmons, assistant general manager of Mountain Parks Electric; Pete Magnuson, architect of the Headwaters Center; Quinn Antus of Responsible Growth, a Colorado coalition of businesses against climate change; and Austin Gray, co-owner of Green Spaces.

To start the panel Taddonio touched on recent trends in energy innovation, such as the decreasing cost of renewable energy, the electrification of cars and an increase in efforts to improve building efficiency.

One of the highlighted renewable energy projects taking place in the county is the installation of an approximately 6 acre solar farm on County Road 5 outside Fraser. Simmons noted that the project is a partnership with the county, which provided the land.

According to Simmons, the project will power around 300 homes once finished in November.

“We’re currently under construction and they should be driving piles within the next week to install the racking to hold the solar modules,” Simmons said.

Other projects discussed by the panel included the building efficiency and sustainability of the Headwaters Center, an off-the-grid building powered by solar and featuring a one-of-a-kind museum focused on protecting water, and the new green-focused co-working space in Winter Park.

Following the panel discussion, audience members were encouraged to ask questions and engage with the panelists and each other to spark connections and ideas. One of the founders of Grand Innovators, Todd Spain, said that’s what the group is all about.

“It’s about trying to find people who are interested in innovation, creating events like today and … foster collisions that will eventually lead to innovative ideas that happen right here,” Spain said.

The upcoming Grand Innovators events will touch on innovation for those over 50 and developments in 5G and broadband internet.

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