The Solar Project at Ogden Nature Center was conceptualized in 2007, funded by a $20,000 grant from Rocky Mountain Power and put into operation July 2008. Its purpose is educational; we want to show what alternative energy is all about, why it is necessary, and what individuals, families, governments and businesses can do to facilitate the transition from fossil fuels to other forms of energy. The solar array is installed just off the southeast side of the LS Peery Education Center. Come out and take a look. Here is the story of the project so far.
Rocky Mountain Power created a granting program to stimulate demonstration projects and focus public attention on the issues and alternatives around our dependence on fossil fuels to produce electricity. Ogden Nature Center was the recipient of a 2007 Rocky Mountain Power grant to create a solar power generating station. You can see some of the other projects they have funded at http://www.rockymtnpower.net/Article/Article72062.html.
In the process of writing the grant proposal, we learned that Ken Gardner of Gardner Engineering, an Ogden company, had designed and installed most of the major solar power generating stations in the state. Ken and his staff eagerly embraced the goals of the project and provided the engineering know-how and technical savvy in this rapidly evolving industry. Ken’s people, along with Richard Patton, ONC sanctuary and facility manager, installed the system in late July, 2008.
Our installation was to be cutting edge. We wanted to show the state of the industry at its best and what could be achieved per dollar of investment. Most of all, we wanted to give our audiences the best practical knowledge we could…no hype and no nonsense. Energy production itself is the stuff of science, math, and engineering and we intend to treat it that way as we document our experience on this website.
Projects like this take a lot of money and most everyone thinks in terms of return-on-investment; that is, the first thing people usually ask is how much ONC will save on its energy bill, given the thousands spent to install the system. The answer is a bit discouraging…we estimate $362 per year --$405 after recent rate increases. But the question itself tells us a lot about how we got into this fossil fuel dependency and global warming mess in the first place.
As almost everyone knows by now, up until a few years ago not many people even thought about costs associated with releasing millions of year’s worth of stored carbon into Earth’s atmosphere in a few hundred years time. But what a difference now; the world will soon put a fairly high price on carbon emissions and any return on investment question will include calculations of carbon reduction. So what will ONC save? Around $400 per year, PLUS about 4 tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. If the system remains productive for 20 years, we save around $8,000 in electricity costs ($14,000 if we see 5% per year increases in electricity prices; $25,000 if we see 10% annual increases) and some 80 tons of green house gases. Of course, our intent is to influence your energy choices toward lower carbon emissions and make our carbon return-on-investment much, much better.
Right now, what you can do to help wean the country from fossil fuels and simultaneously lower your own carbon footprint is to enroll in Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky program. For a few dollars a month voluntarily added to your electric bill, you can have the same impact in reducing carbon as the $20,000 system we just installed at Ogden Nature Center. You can read about the program at http://www.rockymtnpower.net/Article/Article65531.html.