Floating Solar Panels Are Coming to Colorado Towns

A floating solar panel array in London.

A floating solar panel array in London. Matt Dunham / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

The energy-saving solution can be used by water treatment and wastewater facilities.

Last month, Walden became the first town in Colorado to try to reduce energy consumption by going solar on water. The town installed a rack of panels—called floating solar photovoltaic—on ponds operated by the water treatment plant.

Walden is the seat of Jackson County government, which also supports North Park School District facilities on top of its own.

The idea of implementing floating solar was identified as a budget-neutral efficiency measure in the town’s June 2017 audit by Ireland-based tech company Johnson Controls. The company is an approved vendor of the Colorado Energy Office and performs energy audits for local governments across the state.

“This is a monumental project for our town and will help to further our reputation as a leader in sustainability,” said Mayor Jim Dustin in the announcement. “This project is a testament of what can be achieved with a little bit of sun, multiple state agencies and private industries working together for one common goal—and provides a great example for other towns across the state and country to emulate.”

The town’s water treatment facility is the largest energy-producing facility and provided the perfect location for a voltaic. Roof space was limited, but grey water ponds offered a space for floating solar.

What’s more, the floating voltaic has water quality benefits—decreasing evaporation and preventing algae growth.

In total, the project costed $400,000 including the audit, but Walden secured a $200,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The rest of the money will be covered through energy savings, an estimated 2.5 million kilowatt hours a year for 20 years.

Johnson Controls is eyeing similar projects across the state moving forward.

“I think Colorado has a strong potential for floating solar because of the vast surface water reservoirs … owned by irrigation districts ... that would be able to use that water on site,” Rowena Adams, Performance Infrastructure account executive at Johnson Controls, told Route Fifty.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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