Blog Published: November 2019
Namaste Solar, in partnership with Solaris Energy, completed a new 1-megawatt solar project in Fort Collins, Colorado. In addition to providing enough energy to power 250 homes, this new solar panel array highlights the economic and habitat benefits that can be gained from renewable energy projects. This array, dubbed the Solinator Garden, incorporates pollinator-friendly flowering grasses and plants to help promote local bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Renewable Energy for Fort Collins
This new solar panel system was supported by Fort Collins Utilities’ Solar Power Purchase Program (SP3), which incentivizes the installation of new, local commercial-scale solar systems. The array uses 2,700 solar modules mounted on a single-axis tracker, which orients the panels toward the sun throughout the day to optimize solar energy production. Energy generated from the Solinator Garden will flow directly into the local electrical grid and is part of the overall electricity mix provided to all City of Fort Collins Utility customers. This project will contribute over 6% toward the City of Fort Collins’ local renewable goals for 2020.
“While installing solar panels on your home is a great way to make a positive difference, not every home is suitable, or not everyone owns a home,” said Alex Blackmer, chief executive officer at Solaris Energy. “Large, commercial-scale projects like the Solinator Garden provide the capacity needed to make a measurable difference toward Fort Collins’ renewable energy goals.”
In addition to providing additional renewable energy to support the city’s Climate Action Plan, this solar garden creates public health benefits for the entire community. Renewable solar energy displaces carbon emissions and other pollutants from electricity generated by fossil-fuels. Reducing the amount of air pollution on a large scale can result in fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, respiratory illnesses, and cardiovascular problems.
Solar Supports Local Jobs
The Solinator Garden supported over 100 well-paying jobs here in Colorado, including staff at Namaste Solar, Solaris Energy, and the City of Fort Collins, during the two years that the project was in progress. The work included development of the project, designing the solar panel array, and the actual construction of the project.
“When cities like Fort Collins partner with local businesses like Namaste Solar and Solaris Energy, it magnifies the impact on the local economy, and it creates well-paying green jobs within the community,” said Jason Sharpe, Co-Owner and CEO here at Namaste Solar.
Supporting Local Pollinators
The Solinator Garden is named to highlight the project’s use of land underneath and around the solar panels to provide a habitat for local pollinator species. “The site includes a pollinator garden along the perimeter. The grasses planted throughout the project contain a flowering seed mix to enhance local pollinator populations,” said Blackmer.
While solar energy is one solution for climate change, the effects of climate change are already impacting sensitive pollinator species. Providing additional habitat for these pollinators is one way to make great use of the land around solar panel arrays. Namaste Solar is including this type of secondary use for land around solar arrays in more and more of our projects.