Written by Paul Day
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)- When a solar energy company in Jefferson County needed to expand, it picked a rather unorthodox piece of real estate.

“One of the first things we did was run around with a Geiger counter,” said Kirk McCullough, Senior Technician for SkyFuel.

No background radiation was detected.

“We’re good to go,” McCullough said.

Vacant buildings offered plenty of room conveniently close to the company’s existing operation in Arvada. So, it was an easy decision for the boss.

“We’re at Rocky Flats,” said Rick LeBlanc, President of SkyFuel.

Rocky Flats was once a nuclear weapons plant during the Cold War. In the process of making plutonium triggers, areas of the old plant were contaminated with radioactive waste. It penetrated the ground and fouled the water.

All the serious environmental problems were supposedly fixed as part of a massive government cleanup following the closure of the plant in 1992. But is there still a stigma?

“Not for us at all,” said LeBlanc.

His company, SkyFuel, makes utility scale solar collectors, which are concentrated sunshine heats a liquid into steam to create electricity.

c0033 Solar Company Goes Green At Rocky Flats

(credit: CBS)

SkyFuel said the special reflective film it developed in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory makes its collectors better than the competitors which use mirrored surfaces. Higher performance at lower cost is SkyFuel’s claim.

Soon, a new manufacturing plant for SkyFuel will take shape inside a giant warehouse once used for the Rocky Flats cleanup. It’s the same building where research and development operations are currently underway with skilled workers like McCullough.

“As far as our fears, we have none,” said McCullough. “We happen to know this is a clean site.”

The landlord for SkyFuel has assured the company that the tap water in the buildings is safe to drink despite the Flats’ history with contamination. Still, most employees prefer bottled water.

A deal is in the works to make the Flats’ old visitor processing facility the new world headquarters for SkyFuel. The building has been on the market forever.

“It’s been empty for five years, they can’t rent it and we come and say we’re going to build world class solar collectors here, they’re happy,” said LeBlanc.

Skyfuel is in the process of hiring more engineers and technicians.

With the expansion, the company expects its’ current workforce of 30 people to grow to 90 within a couple years.

By reusing the old nuclear weapons plant nobody else wants, this solar company is finding a new way to be green.


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