Solar farm's head makes D.C. trip to talk to Congress about energy industry

Solar farm’s head makes D.C. trip to talk to Congress about energy industry

AURORA | Last month, the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee met in Washington D.C. for their job-creation meeting where they heard testimony from their invited guests, most of whom were small-business owners.

Dustin Smith, executive director of Aurora’s Solar Technology Acceleration Center, spoke to that committee about his experience as a small-business owner in the renewable energy industry. U.S. Sen. Mark Udall invited Smith.

Smith’s business, SolarTAC, is an outdoor facility where companies can test and explore advanced solar technologies before they enter markets. Located in northeastern Aurora and leased by the city, the 74-acre facility is the largest test facility for solar technologies in the U.S., according to officials.

Companies work alone and retain proprietorship of their developments, but Smith says he has seen an increase in collaborations between members since operations began in October 2009.

“We’re basically sector partnerships on steroids,” said Smith, “We’re seeing competitors working together and different crews hooking up their equipment to create new and more efficient products.”

Today, SolarTAC has leased over 90 percent of its facilities, more than doubling its membership in the last four years. The facility is financially sustainable, Smith said, and is connected to Aurora’s electric grid.

Colorado also ranks fourth in the U.S. for utility-grade geothermal energy potential, sixth for solar energy, and 11th for wind according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. In 2010, the state doubled down on renewable energy under then-Gov. Bill Ritter, requiring that 30 percent of Colorado’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020 — one of the highest standards in the U.S.

Smith admits that SolarTAC’s success is largely due to the growing necessity for energy and renewable energy in particular; but also SolarTAC’s success comes with a much larger wave of success for startup companies in the renewable energy industry as a result of the Obama Administration’s interest in renewable energy. Since 2009, the administration has approved 29 renewable energy projects on public lands, including 16 solar, eight geothermal, and five wind projects.

Udall said he supported that strategy, emphasizing the importance of clean and domestic energy.

“I was proud to host Dustin in Washington last month,” Udall said. “The work his organization is doing is a good model to highlight the way public-private partnerships can create jobs, drive innovation and produce affordable products for everyday consumers.”


This article originally appeared in the Aurora Sentinel.