The Montezuma County Board of Commissioners are proposing to install solar panels on county buildings in Cortez beginning this year.
The project would first put a solar array on the Annex 3 building at 140 Main St. that includes the clerk, treasurer and assessor’s offices.
Eventually, the county wants to install solar panels on the county health department building and at the road and bridge department.
The county is working with Shaw Solar of Durango on the project in cooperation with Empire Electric Association. So far, Empire has granted approvals for the solar panel project at the Annex 3 site.
There is incentive to go solar this year because of a 30% tax credit, which will reduce to 26% next year and eventually sunset, said Mike Ellis, of Shaw Solar.
“It is a great time to invest in solar,” Ellis said. “You start saving on electricity immediately. These three building sites have good roof aspects for solar.”
Under the proposed arrangement for Annex 3, Shaw would install the 61.4 kW system and maintain the solar panels. Shaw and its investor groups benefit from the tax credit.
Under a lease-to-own model, the county would buy out the solar panels in six years, totaling $157,184.
When calculated over 25 years, the solar power project for the Annex 3 building would save the county an estimated 53% on its electric bill, or an average of $7,000 per year, according to Shaw figures.
Similar savings were calculated for solar projects at the health department building and on road and bridge department buildings. The commissioners are also determining whether the new Montezuma County Combined Courthouse could have additional solar panels added to the system.
Ideally, a building planned for solar panels should have a newer roof to avoid having to re-roof once the panels are installed, officials said. Roof replacement is needed at Annex 3 before the solar panels are installed, officials said, and the roof work is now a priority.