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Solar projects the firsts of many

Phil Castle
Business Times

Justin Pentelute, chief executive officer of Syndicated Solar, stands near a solar energy panel converted into a fountain for the lobby of the Grand Junction business. Pentelute oversees a firm that’s been involved in a number of firsts for the solar industry in Colorado. Pentelute expects more milestones given the growth of the firm, the popularity of solar energy and financing available to help fund projects. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Justin Pentelute has been involved in a number of firsts for the solar energy industry in Colorado. His Grand Junction company installed the photovoltaic arrays on the first solar-powered billboard in the state and first solar-powered stand-alone pharmacy in the region.

Given the growth of the company, the increasing popularity of solar power and the financial assistance available to help pay for projects, more such milestones are likely, said Pentelute, chief executive officer of Syndicated Solar. “We’re working on a ton of firsts right now.”

Pentelute founded Syndicated Solar in 2009. The solar development company since has worked on projects for agricultural, commercial and industrial markets and for such clients as Talbott Farms, Grande River Vineyards and Mor Storage Sales.

Syndicated Solar and Colorado West Outdoor Advertising erected the first — and so far, only — solar-powered billboard along U.S. Highway 6 & 50 near the Rimrock Shopping Center in Grand Junction. A 2.17-kilowatt  photovoltaic array generates more than 90 percent of the electricity for the tri-vision billboard.

Syndicated Solar installed a 13-kilowatt array at Palisade Pharmacy, making the business the first and so far only solar-powered, stand-alone pharmacy in Western Colorado. The array is expected to offset nearly half the energy consumption at the pharmacy for an estimated annual savings of $2,400.

Pentelute has worked in the solar energy industry for four years, initially as part of an effort to manufacture thin film photovoltaic cells in Oregon. That effort evolved into a solar power development business that provides a range of services to businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Pentelute takes a similar approach with Syndicated Solar in combining proprietary computer software with a staff of 14 that includes engineers, accountants and grant writers. “We have an outstanding team of very capable professionals,” he said.

Syndicated Solar has taken advantage of that business model as well as increasing demand for solar power based on environmental and financial benefits, Pentelute said.

Rebates, grants and tax credits offer substantial assistance in paying for solar energy projects, he said. “That, to me, is the real story.”

For example, the initial investment in the solar array installed at the Palisade Pharmacy was recaptured within the first 90 days through a rebate from Xcel Energy and a grant made through Section 1603 of federal stimulus legislation.

The Section 1603 grants are scheduled to expire at the end of the year, which makes it important for businesses that want to take advantage of the funding to soon start construction on solar projects, Pentelute said. But other rebates and tax credits remain in place, as does the savings businesses realize from rising utility rates, he said.

The long-term outlook is promising, he said, as more businesses and individuals install solar systems and the price of the technology comes down.

In addition to continuing to serve the Grand Valley, Pentelute plans to open a second operation in Phoenix before the end of the year. “I’m very bullish on the solar industry,” he said.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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