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January 22, 2013
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Aspen council to tackle renewable energy

ASPEN - The Aspen City Council meets at 4 p.m. today for a work session on the city's renewable-energy goals for its electricity utility.

The city has a goal in which 100 percent of the utility's portfolio will consist of renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric and wind power by 2015. Currently, the percentage is about 75 percent.

Whether the discussion also will include the future of the proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric facility remains to be seen. Through an advisory vote Nov. 6, a slim majority of city voters indicated that they didn't want the city to complete the project, which would divert water from Castle and Maroon creeks southwest of Aspen to create power at a proposed site beneath the Castle Creek Bridge at Highway 82.

Council members aren't legally bound to abide by the outcome of the advisory question. They could buck the narrow defeat and in some way resurrect the controversial project, which escalated in its estimated cost from around $6 million in 2007 to $10.2 million last year.

Will Dolan, city utilities specialist, said the conversation would include all types of potential renewable energy sources, including geothermal and solar power.

"This meeting is to present council with a suite of alternatives," Dolan said. "That doesn't necessarily mean they are alternatives to the Castle Creek Energy Center. They might be things the council might want to pursue in addition to the center.

"I think we're operating under the assumption that it's too soon for them to want to make any type of decision, one way or another, on Castle Creek. If they want to ask us questions about that, we're prepared to answer them, but I don't think we're expecting any specific direction out of them regarding Castle Creek."

On Wednesday, the city held an open house at the Rio Grande Meeting Room to discuss renewable energy with local residents and to gain some public input on the topic and how the 100 percent goal can be reached.

Renewable energy is a high priority for the city, which wants to eliminate its dependence on nonrenewable sources such as coal and natural gas. When a contract to purchase hydropower from a plant in Ridgway, near Montrose, goes into effect in January 2014, the percentage of renewables in the utility's portfolio will be in the upper 80s.

Dolan said today's work session will be the first of two on the renewable-energy topic this year. The next one will be held during the summer.

The meeting will be held in the basement of City Hall at 130 S. Galena St.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Jan 22, 2013 12:33AM Published Jan 22, 2013 12:32AM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.