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AZTEC — A nonprofit that uses volunteer labor to install solar panels in Durango, Colorado, is expanding its operations to San Juan County.

Solar Barn Raising met with people interested in having solar installed on their houses on Aug. 7 at Step Back Inn in Aztec.

“The number one problem today with solar — why we’re not doing more — is its cost,” said Solar Barn Raising’s founder and president John Lyle.

Lyle started the nonprofit seven years ago with the goal of making solar more affordable. By using volunteers for labor, Lyle said the nonprofit can cut the costs of solar installations in half.

Lyle said in the past it was not uncommon for communities to come together and volunteer to help each other. He said much of the electric grid was initially built by volunteers.

“We’re doing the same thing they did,” Lyle said. “We are volunteering, coming together to build a new grid for the 21st Century and that grid is going to be based on renewables instead of coal-fired plants.”

He said within five to seven years, the savings from solar power will pay back the initial investment into the installation.

Since Lyle started Solar Barn Raising, the nonprofit has installed arrays of various sizes ranging from 1.2 kilowatts to 48 kilowatts. The 48 kilowatt installation was for a church.

The designs for the solar installations are created by engineering students at Fort Lewis College.

David Fosdeck, who is helping oversee the San Juan County installations, said Solar Barn Raising is currently working with three local residents to install solar.

Fosdeck said he anticipates interest in Solar Barn Raising will increase after a few systems are installed in San Juan County. The clients will help with installations of their own system and other systems.

“You participate in a couple installs, they help you with yours,” Fosdeck said.

Information about Solar Barn Raising can be found online at solarbarnraising.org.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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