Fowler looking to solar for its future

Pulling into Fowler, Colo., I didn’t think much. Sure, small towns in Western Colorado tend to look like this: one strip of stores and a couple restaurants, a few gas stations, a school, and lots of corn. 

Crossing the railroad tracks, I passed the old Diven cannery, a large steel building which still houses the old plant’s sign. It’s a skeleton of an industry that has long-since left the town. 

But there’s electricity in the air today.

I pulled up to Cottonwood Links, the town’s golf course, to meet Chris Hamilton, a senior consultant with Denver firm Vibrant Solar. His team had recently installed helical piers for a new solar array that will help power the golf course. The team was aligning the piers with a laser site, making sure everything was level.

If you don’t know what helical piers are—I sure didn’t—they are basically giant screws that twist their way into the ground. By using them, installers don’t have to deal with pouring concrete slabs to support solar arrays.

In all, Fowler is currently installing solar at seven sites, which comes to a total of 137 kilowatts, saving the town an estimated 521,000 lbs of CO2 a year.

The installations were solicited by L. Wayne Snider, Fowler’s town administrator.

“It has been our goal all along to stabilize our cost,” said Snider. “We were seeing rates go up, and solar was a no-brainer.”

Snider has been the town administrator for about four years. He created an energy team for the town and started looking into different technologies with the help of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), located in Golden, Colo.

“NREL was part of the original energy team, and the work there was really just talking to them and getting their advice,” said Snider. “I went through nine different solar installers, through the smallest and some of the biggest.”

Snider decided on Vibrant, mostly because he liked their investment infrastructure.

“Some of the installers were trying to set up third party investors within their companies. Most of those companies were fairly new,” he said. “They were all offering power purchase agreements, but once I came across Vibrant, they just seemed to have everything in place.”

Vibrant had investors lined up, a couple of whom Snider knew, so he made the decision to go with the Denver company.

Through his talks with Vibrant, Snider met and worked alongside Ben Jones, another of Vibrant’s consultants and, as of September 2010, the CEO of Helios Solar, a sister company of Vibrant. And that’s when the Diven cannery, the old steel building outside the golf course, came up.

Story continues here.

Pictured: One of Vibrant Solar's vans sits behind the helical piers of a soon-to-be solar array on Fowler's golf course.

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