Financials don’t add up
November 1, 2012
According to recent Aspen Times reports, Aspen Skiing Co. is investing nearly $5.4 million of the $6 million construction cost of a plant that will capture methane vented from a coal mine at Somerset, about 10 miles northeast of Paonia, and convert it into electricity. The plant will produce 25 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year with initial production this fall. Unlike solar, wind and often hydropower, it will produce electricity 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year.
Methane has been labeled “carbon on steroids” by Carbondale energy expert Randy Udall. It contributes to global warming directly and also creates ozone, another powerful greenhouse gas. For that reason, the methane power plant will displace three times as much carbon as Skico produces in a year through burning fossil fuels.
Skico’s rate of return is 12 percent, and it will likely recoup its investment in 10 to 15 years.
As Mike Kaplan said, “It’s a phenomenal project,” and I agree. The project makes economic sense and displaces three times as much carbon as burning fossil fuels.
By comparison, the city of Aspen is proposing to spend at least $10.5 million of the taxpayers’ money and substantially dewater 6.5 miles of Maroon and Castle creeks for a hydro project to produce just 5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year – if federal approvals can be obtained, streamflows are adequate and the city determines that the detrimental effect on Maroon and Castle creeks is acceptable. The plant will operate for at most nine months of the year and divert as much as 40 percent of the water out of Maroon and Castle creeks for 6.5 miles of their stream beds. The water taken from Maroon Creek will never be returned to Maroon Creek. When construction, financing and operating costs are factored in, the energy produced will cost about 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for at least the first 20 years, versus currently available renewable energy, which can be purchased for 6 to 8 cents.
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Skico is investing in a $6 million facility that will produce 25 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, a 12 percent return, and displace three times as much carbon as otherwise would be burned. The city of Aspen proposes to spend nearly twice as much to produce just 20 percent as much electricity while dewatering 6.5 miles of our local streams. This is way too high a price to pay.
Vote “no” on 2C.