A rally for solar as Federal Center announces it will triple energy-producing panels
Posted: 02/18/2010 01:00:00 AM MST
(Denver Post photo not reproduced)
Hundreds of solar-power supporters make their way to the west steps of the Capitol during a rally Wednesday afternoon. The crowd, representing the Colorado solar industry, gathered at 16th and Lawrence streets and walked up the 16th Street Mall to the Capitol.
As the government launched a project Wednesday to install solar panels on 35 acres at the Denver Federal Center, 250 solar-industry workers marched through downtown to rally political support.
“This is the future of our economy. Even though we’re nicknamed ‘green collar,’ we’re the blue collar of the future,” said R.J. Harrington, director of Boulder-based Simple Solar, one of more than 200 solar companies that employ about 1,500 workers statewide.
The action reflected growing enthusiasm for a greener economy that proponents say could propel Colorado out of doldrums.
“I want a long-term career. That’s why I’m here,” panel installer Wade Andrews, 33, said, marching amid “Solar Roofs = Local Jobs” signs. A Colorado State University graduate in philosophy, Andrews said his $38,000 salary, plus health benefits, gives a solid start.
Solar-industry leaders are lobbying for legislation to enable widespread installation of panels on residential and small-business roofs.
Lawmakers have introduced bills that would:
- Make it easier for homeowners to arrange financing for the upfront cost of solar panels.
- Require Colorado to generate 30 percent of energy used by consumers from renewable sources by 2020, up from a current requirement of 20 percent.
Supporting solar energy “is a win for banks,” Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver, said. Solar-company assets are growing, homeowners borrowing to buy panels fit profiles of those likely to repay loans, and a 30 percent target would stimulate further growth, Miklosi said. “This is about creating jobs.”
At the Federal Center, Government Services Administration officials said installation of about 30,000 roof and ground-mounted solar panels would help meet a goal of generating 14 percent of energy used at the center from a renewable source.
About 6,000 federal employees work in 55 buildings at the 623-acre center in Lakewood — the largest federal center outside Washington, D.C.
“The addition of 35 acres of photovoltaic panels at the Denver Federal Center will encourage growth and create jobs in the domestic construction and green technology industries,” GSA Administrator Martha Johnson said.
The new solar arrays would triple the acreage covered by solar panels. The project is being paid for with $5.5 billion in Recovery Act tax funds given to GSA to make federal offices more efficient.
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