Carbondale to go greener? |

Carbondale to go greener?

John Colson
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Image courtesy of Sunsense Solar

CARBONDALE — Town officials here are planning to ask constituents where to put solar-panel arrays that will reduce the town’s electric bills and add to the town’s reputation for being at the forefront of the alternative-energy movement.

The Board of Trustees earlier this year hired the Sunsense company, based in Carbondale, to fashion a proposal for signing “solar power purchase agreements” for installing solar arrays on town-owned property so the town can begin using the energy generated by those arrays to reduce the amount of power it buys from utilities.

“There could be some potential for the town to maximize its solar potential,” Town Manager Jay Harrington told the Board of Trustees at a work session Tuesday.

As the proposal stands, the town is considering solar installations in the following areas:

• On the ground adjacent to the Roaring Fork Water Treatment Plant at the edge of the Delaney Nature Park on the northeastern edge of town.

• On the roof of the PAC3 auditorium at the Third Street Center.

• On the roof of the town’s public-works garage, located behind the Grand Junction Pipe business on Highway 133.

Xcel Energy, which has a new alternative-energy program allowing it to work with municipal customers on solar-power initiatives, has agreed to take the power generated by the solar panels and then sell it back to the town at a discounted rate.

According to Katharine Rushton, of Sunsense, the initial cost of building the arrays is around $100,000, to be covered by a private investment group that will pay those upfront costs, own the arrays and then reap the tax credits and other benefits of providing solar power to the town.

The only cost to the town, Rushton said, will be the money paid to Sunsense for setting up the deal and a $4,500 “deposit” that already has been paid to Xcel to lock in a rate of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour. And at some point, perhaps six or seven years into the program, Rushton said, the town can consider buying out the investors and owning the arrays.

“There is no cap on that amount, but we monitor it closely,” Harrington said, adding that the town expects to pay a total of between $8,000 and $10,000 in initial costs, including the deposit.

Sunsense estimated that the town stands to save as much as $230,000 over 20 years, when all three solar projects are lumped together, although Rushton emphasized that those estimates are likely to change over the life of the project.

The use of the Delaney Park property has met some resistance from the town’s Parks and Recreation Commission.

The commission, according to member Rob Comey, had been planning to use the Delaney Park property for ballfields, to replace existing ballfields attached to the old Carbondale Middle School.

The middle school fields, which belong to the Roaring Fork School District, are to be eliminated in favor of an affordable-housing project at that site that the school district has been planning for years.

The proposed plan is to be discussed at a town meeting, conducted by the Parks and Recreation Commission, at its meeting on June 12, according to statements made at the trustees’ work session.