Basalt will debut a new $50,000 solar power system at its middle school Wednesday that has been built thanks to the town’s victory in a competition to reduce plastic bag use.
Basalt took first place in a 2009 contest between 32 mountain towns in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho where the town with the highest per-capita reusable bag use rate at the grocery store was awarded $10,000 to build a solar power system. Participating stores in each town tallied the amount of people who came in with their own bag during a six-month period between March and September, 2009. Basalt won by eliminating 48 plastic bags per person during the contest, according to the Community Office for Resource Efficiency [CORE].
The town of Basalt, through its “Green Team,” then applied for more grants through various sources and raised an additional $40,000. The additional funds were put toward making the solar installation larger. That photovoltaic system is now projected to produce 13,000 kilowatts-hours per year of electricity. A kilowatt-hour is approximately the amount of power it takes to run a dishwasher for one hour.
“This is really a prime example of a community group-led effort,” CORE director Nathan Ratledge said, complimenting the Green Team for “hammering away” on the grant-seeking process. Besides the bag challenge funds, which were put up by Alpine Bank and PCL Construction, Basalt secured grants from CORE, the Aspen Skiing Co., Holy Cross Energy and the Governor’s Energy Office.
As the solar installation will be on Basalt Middle School grounds, the system includes a monitoring component that will allow students to see in real time how much power is being generated. The solar system could also be incorporated into math and science curriculum.
The town will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new solar power system at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the middle school.
Basalt town officials are considering legislation to discourage and ultimately ban the plastic and paper disposable bags given away at the grocery store.