The Cortez Municipal Airport will install solar panels on its roof this year to help reduce the cost of its energy consumption. The city of Cortez approved an installation contract Tuesday evening with Shaw Solar of Durango.
The solar panels are expected to cut the city’s airport electric bill by 50%. Mike Ellis, business operations and finance manager for Shaw Solar, said cost projections factor in rate inflation.
“That’s pretty good bang for your buck,” said Airport Manager Russ Machen.
After the solar panels are installed, the largest electric meter in the airport will run entirely on solar energy. The city will buy the solar energy and lease the solar panels from Shaw Solar for six years to take advantage of a tax credit, costing a little over $13,000 per year.
In the sixth year of operation, the city has the option to purchase the solar array from Shaw Solar for $23,183. Without the solar panels, the estimated cost of energy from Empire Electric is $34,905.
The total cost of the project is $54,848. After seven years, the airport electric bill will be half the cost of the bill before the solar panels were installed, and the city will break even on the project, according to Ben Burkett, finance director for the city of Cortez.
Shaw Solar has installed solar panels on City Hall, the Golf Course Maintenance Shop and the Animal Shelter.
Mayor Mike Lavey expressed concern about the cost of clearing snow off the panels, but Ellis said solar panels need to be cleared only when there is about 2 feet of snow.
“Cortez is one of the best locations for solar in the nation,” Ellis said. “Cold, clear, long sunny days produce the best solar power.”