Since the earliest settlers moved into Delta County it has relied on two major forces to drive its economy: energy and agriculture. Solar Energy International (SEI) has honored this heritage by introducing Solarize, a community-based outreach campaign to keep the energy-producing heritage alive. Solarize aimed to kickstart a solar market in the region and to create a sustainable renewable energy presence. The project started in the North Fork Valley in 2015 and as solar interest grew so did the project to encompass all of Delta County. SEI has executed three Solarize campaigns, with the final results yielding 57 installations equalling over 400kW, nine new jobs, and an investment of over $1.5 million in solar energy in Delta County.
The final campaign, Solarize Delta County Farms, which took place this past summer, focused on helping farms and businesses create their own solar energy to power their operations and curb against rising utility costs. Solarize Delta County Farms held 20 educational events with various speakers that included: DMEA, the Colorado Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) Director, The Colorado Department of Agriculture, The Colorado Office of Energy, local banks, local farms with solar, and partnered installers, Empowered Energy Systems, Sunsense Solar, and Black Canyon Resources. As well as, participated in 15 community summer festivals and business events to spread the word about the program and debunk solar myths. Many of the events incorporated opportunities to learn about government programs such as C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) and REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) that help farms and businesses fund energy efficiency upgrades on their property, including solar installation.
Over the past three years SEI has reached over 1,200 people in the county, spreading solar education through these Solarize campaigns. With the help of partnered installers SEI has streamlined the process of installing solar for residents of Delta County. Brad Burritt and Danielle Carre' from Empowered Energy Systems said the following about Solarize:
"It was an honor for our team to work with SEI and DCED on the Solarize Campaigns. We provided to Delta County home and business owners state-of-the-art PV systems that will produce very low-carbon, low priced, and reliable energy for decades to come. And, Solarize helped grow our company and our team, adding a number of new well-paying jobs to our local economy."
The Solarize campaigns have helped invest in generating local solar power, diversifying the energy grid, and diversifying the economy in Delta County. With the beginnings of a renewable energy presence established in the county the solar market can grow and new job opportunities can be created.