By Shawn Chitnis

WATKINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Denver Housing Authority celebrated the progress on a new solar garden Friday that will power only affordable housing units in the city and help families reduce the cost of their energy bills.

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“This project is pretty unique,” said Chris Jedd, Portfolio Energy Manager for the housing authority. “It’s one of the first housing authority owned, operated, and subscribed solar gardens.”

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Located on Hudson Road in Watkins, the solar garden is on land owned by the City of Aurora. The project sits on a 74-acre site run by SolarTAC. DHA and its partners hope that they can eventually power more homes in other communities outside of Denver. They estimate 500 to 700 homes will benefit from the solar panels installed and families could see their energy bill go down by 20 percent. Their expense will hopefully be more predictable from month to month as well.

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The site is an ideal location because it is surrounded by open space in all directions without any trees or shade in the area, just the sun above.

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“It allows for a more efficient system, with less panels, greater generation of power,” Jedd explained of the location.

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Volunteers were on the site Friday helping to get some of the first panels put into place. The layout will allow the panels to move with the sun each day.

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“In the morning the panels will be up like this facing the sun,” Jedd demonstrated. “As the day goes on they’ll face westward and catch the sunset toward the Western Slope.”

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The project will cost $3.8 million and take four months to complete. One month into installation, Jedd hopes to have the panels completed and ready to operate on Dec. 31. Another long-term goal is to bring down the cost of building affordable housing units so more of the money spent on those projects can go toward funding additional sites and create more places for low-income families to call home.

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“It’s often the last one to get options and access to renewable energy,” Jedd said.

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Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.