Using Sunshine to Save Money, Make Electricity and Support the Environment

In 1997, John Shaw and his brother, Charles, purchased the Smiley Building from Durango School District 9R. The building came with a $5,000 monthly utility bill. After getting the usage down through energy conservation efforts, the brothers added solar. “It’s kind of like magic,” said Shaw. “Making electricity with sunshine.”

Intrigued by the environmental benefits, Shaw, a licensed Master Electrician, decided to focus more on solar. In 2005, he began Shaw Solar, which designs, engineers, installs and maintains everything needed to use energy efficiently for a home or commercial property.

Solar panels were initially used solely for environmental reasons. With the cost of panels so high seven years ago, there were few financial benefits for the consumer. These days, panel costs have drastically reduced, and many customers are investing for the financial benefits, in addition to the positive environmental influence. “Most of the people we work for like it all,” said Shaw. “They like that it makes financial sense and they can cut down of fossil fuels and make better environmental choices.”

Using solar also helps stabilize the grid, said Shaw, who was also quick to point out that he wasn’t suggesting that the current system was unreliable or that solar would replace it. The current grid is several very large, connected power plants that flow electricity to urban areas. As a supplement, solar panels provide a way of adding many smaller power plants, which is infrastructure without the cost. The additions promote reliable power and reliable renewable energy. “I’m not suggesting that solar is the only answer,” said Shaw. “But it’s going to be a much bigger piece than it is of our energy mix.”

Most people like the idea of solar, said Shaw, but most are deterred by the cost. This tends to be more of an educational barrier. Today, panels are not only much more affordable, but the investment is 25 cents on the dollar for 25 years of renewable energy. “When we talk to people, people are amazed that it’s as affordable as it is,” said Shaw. “I’m not saying everyone can afford it, but it has a good value proposition.”

Shaw encourages those interested to call with questions. Solar is for people and businesses who want to save money on long-term electric bills. “With a 10-plus percent return on your investment and great environmental benefits, the age of solar is here,” said Shaw.

Learn more about Shaw Solar at

Originally published in the Durango Chamber of Commerce‘s July 2014 newsletter.


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