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Exploit the Sun: Why isn’t Pueblo capitalizing on Solar?

Solar Panels at Wastewater Treatment Center from www.solarflexrack.com
One of the first tidbits of information that a new arrival to Pueblo hears is that Pueblo averages about 300 days of sunshine per year, which makes one wonder: what commercial benefits does the sun offer the city of Pueblo? Thoughts of solar panels may race through one’s mind, but Pueblo has a unique opportunity to go beyond those little boxes to lure new-and up-and-coming-technology companies whose main priority is to transform solar energy into profitable business.

HyperSolar, a California-based company, for example, has developed a process to generate renewable hydrogen and natural gas. HyperSolar’s process turns wastewater into clean water, which is then converted into hydrogen, after having been bathed in direct sunlight; the process for creating natural gas is similar. The conversion method requires no energy source other than the sun, making it an economical way of developing two in-demand products that are used in both the industrial and the residential sectors.

Sopogy, Inc. is a Hawaii-based solar energy company that uses the heat from sunlight to create chilled air. According to Sopogy’s website, their company has developed mirrored “micro-concentrated” solar collectors that focus the sunlight onto a pipe that has been filled with “a heat transfer fluid that runs to a solar absorption chiller, which reacts to the heat and creates cold air.”

Pueblo could be a central location for Sopogy, allowing the company to further expand its business and to reduce the vast amount of electricity that is being used for air-conditioning. If Pueblo hosted both HyperSolar and Sopogy, Inc., the benefits would be two-fold because Sopogy’s absorption chillers “are typically driven by natural gas,” which is a product that HyperSolar creates.

As the country continues to stumble toward a full economic recovery, Pueblo’s Chamber of Commerce has a prime opportunity to boast about Pueblo’s secret business weapon: the sun. The Chamber of Commerce could easily explain, using Pueblo Memorial Airport’s weather data, that from 1974 to 2011, Pueblo’s daily high temperature during the warm season, June 6 to September 11, averages 83 degrees and that the 20th of June is Pueblo’s most lucrative sun day as it averages 14 hours 40 minutes of usable sunlight.

Companies such as SolarReserve and BrightSource may certainly be interested in Pueblo’s 300 days of sunshine. Both companies are in the business of building storehouses that hold solar thermal energy. According to BrightSource’s website, solar thermal energy is used to boil water which then “can be used to heat salt that stores the energy until later, when the sun dips and households power up their appliances and air-conditioning at peak demand hours in the [summertime].” SolarReserve and BrightSource together are building four power plants that will provide power for tens of thousands of California homes during summer evenings, perhaps preventing rolling blackouts.

With that said, Pueblo should happily exploit one of its most important and free natural resources, the sun, by reaching out to those companies that would benefit from it. Pueblo may never have a song written asserting that it never rains in southern Colorado, so the city needs to be self-promoting and proactive for its own progression. When these new-technology companies arrive – to include companies that pursue solar-assisted water disinfection capabilities and solar heater potentials – they will afford Pueblo the means to build new schools, to expand hospitals, to hire Pueblo’s own young professionals and to inspire other professionals to relocate to Pueblo. As it opens its arms to these corporations, Pueblo will be investing in its own future.

by James Seals

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