Aspen preps 100 percent renewable-energy goal by 2015 | AspenTimes.com

Aspen preps 100 percent renewable-energy goal by 2015

Staff report

The Aspen City Council on Tuesday met with energy experts as part of its goal to achieve 100 percent renewable energy in Aspen by 2015.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy affiliate, has been tasked with reviewing Aspen's Canary Initiative, which set the carbon-neutral goal. Tuesday's work session was the first of three between Aspen and the lab. The second meeting will take place in January, and the third will take place in the spring, when the council will gather info and determine which energy resources to pursue.

Renewable-energy options in Aspen include hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, sewage gas and biogas. There are also two nonrenewable options: municipal-solid-waste energy and coal-mine methane. The latter two drew some discussion Tueaday because there has been debate whether they are acceptable energy sources.

The state Legislature recognizes coal-mine methane as renewable, while the federal government recognizes municipal solid waste as renewable. After city staff recommended striking those two options, council member Adam Frisch said they should remain under consideration, especially this early in the process. Ashley Perl, manager of the Canaray Initiative, said that historically, Aspen has set a higher standard than the state.

Renewable-energy options in Aspen include hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, sewage gas and biogas. There are also two nonrenewable options: municipal-solid-waste energy and coal-mine methane. The latter two drew some discussion Tueaday because there has been debate whether they are acceptable energy sources.

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"From a staff perspective, we have an abundance of better options," said Will Dolan, the city's utilities project coordinator.

Perl said Aspen has the opportunity to set itself apart and become a leader in a global effort to reduce greenhouse gases. Aspen's stated goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, which is in line with other American cities. In Aspen, 43 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions come from ground transportation. Another 28 percent of emissions is from electricity use.

In other business

The council also reviewed the design for the Galena Plaza redevelopment project.

Construction for the redevelopment is expected to start in the summer of 2014 at an estimated cost of $4.6 million. The redesign leaves room for possible expansion at the Pitkin County Library, with both projects slated for completion in the summer of 2015.

Both Mayor Steve Skadron and council member Ann Mullins said there's room for improvement with the Galena Plaza redesign. They will meet with city officials in order to create a greener design with a more pronounced thoroughfare through the plaza.

In November 2012, Pitkin County voters rejected a $10 million library expansion. Kathy Chandler, director of the library, said she and her colleagues have gone back to the drawing board, with a scaled back approach. She said they are focused on three major improvements: a meeting room available outside library hours, a more secure children's library and additional study space for the public.

In 1997, funds were donated to the library that have since grown to $5.7 million, which will be put toward any future expansion. She said by Dec. 4, when the library completes pricing studies, she will have a better idea of whether the expansion is a go.