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Northern Colorado libraries go solar

Colorado library installs solarThe High Plains Library District in northern Colorado is powering its facilities with solar and looking to add an electric vehicle fleet.

The Centennial Park and Farr Regional libraries in Greeley both installed solar this year. The Centennial Park Library gets about 15 percent of its power from new solar panels, while the Farr building gets almost 20 percent of its power.

The library district is also looking to install solar at its district support services offices that would supply about 41 percent of the building’s energy needs.

The solar installations are part of the library district’s effort to be a community leader, said Eric Ewing, director of human services and facilities for the district.

“We’ve been working on it a long time,” Ewing said, “but we finally articulated our sustainability goals and came up with a statement of guiding principles to use when these types of subjects come up.”

Once the district decided that sustainability was a priority, Ewing went out looking for the right way forward. He found the Drive Sunshine Institute, a Colorado organization spearheaded by the Renewable Energy Initiative, which led him to SolarCity.

SolarCity, a California company, was able to install solar at the library buildings through a 20-year power purchase agreement that doesn’t cost the district any more than utility power would.

“It just made common business sense,” Ewing said. “There’s no risk for us. We’re going to buy the energy anyway. For me and the rest of the administration it was kind of a no-brainer.”

Going solar didn’t cost anything, but it allows the district to be a thought leader in the community and demonstrate that the technology works and the model works.

Now that the facilities have some solar power, Ewing said he’s looking to further reduce the district’s carbon footprint by incorporating electric vehicles it can charge with solar.

Right now, there are several library employees who have to travel around the community. They use their own vehicles and are reimbursed for mileage. Ewing thinks a small electric vehicle fleet would be ideal for those short jaunts.

The district has already installed an electric vehicle charger. It’s the first one east of I-25 in northern Colorado, Ewing said.

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