American Solar Power
Moab radio station KZMU is the state's first solar-powered radio station, with a $112,000 photovoltaic system that generates enough power to meet all of the station's power needs, day and night.

Grand County is now home to the state's first solar-powered radio station.

KZMU in Moab ceremonially "flipped the switch" Friday on its 12-kilowatt photovoltaic system, which is designed to generate enough electrical energy to provide the radio station with all of its power needs day and night, said program director Christy Williams.

The system went online five weeks ago following several test runs. "We have saved 18 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere since that point," she said.

The station so far has been able to generate even more electricity than it needs, "which means that, as we speak, we're powering someone's toaster here in Grand County," she said.

Williams said the motivation behind implementing the solar-power system was to promote sustainability, which is part of the grass-roots culture of the station. The $112,000 project was paid for, in part, through a $60,000 grant from Rocky Mountain Power.

The grant paid for most of the project costs, but the station will still have to conduct a fund drive to pay for the remaining balance. Williams said that in the long run, the photovoltaic system will be well worth the initial cost.

Previously, the station had been getting all of its electricity from wind power through the utility's Blue Sky renewable energy program, she said. The Blue Sky program offers customers the option of purchasing 100-kilowatt-hour blocks for $1.95 each, in addition to their regular monthly electricity bill.

Although KZMU now generates its own power, the station still must account with Rocky Mountain Power for the electricity that the station generates, because the station is still on the power grid. If the station generates more power than it uses, the utility pays the station for the electricity. The utility and the station have a 25-year agreement, which is also the warrantee period for the solar equipment.

The agreement with Rocky Mountain Power calls for a fixed rate during those 25 years, and the radio station would pay nothing if its electricity needs remain constant over that time, said Kent Alcorn, owner of American Solar Power, who designed the 10-panel, solar-electric power-generation system.

"The system is designed to provide, day-in and day-out over a year, 60 kilowatt hours a day, which is what was on their electric bill," he said. "So we designed the system to provide them with 100 percent of their electrical energy needs."

Alcorn estimated the station would save about $170,000 over the next quarter century with the new system, as well as helping the environment.

"We are faced with a new way of doing things that will not harm our planet and roast our grandchildren," he said. "We need to think in terms of doing those things now."