Solar summit launches tri-county ‘roadmapping’ effort

Staff report
A solar planning roundtable meeting at Carbondale's Third Street Center in December spawned a broader summit that takes place Thursday in Glenwood Springs.
Colin Laird photo

Decision-makers from Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties are to gather in Glenwood Springs today to launch a planning process that’s intended to usher in more solar projects across the region.

The all-day event is presented by Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) and Garfield Clean Energy, in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), based in Golden.

Organizers say the time is right for the three counties to come together to plan for new solar projects on a regional scale.

“We have a window of opportunity now in 2019 to really bend the curve on solar energy in our region,” Katharine Rushton, CLEER’s renewable energy program director, said in a press release announcing the summit.

“This solar roadmapping workshop is pivotal to kickstart that,” she said.

Rushton added that the cost of installing solar has fallen to the point where it’s as cheap as conventional energy.

In conjunction, electric utilities and local governments in the region have begun adopting stronger “clean-energy” targets. And Gov. Jared Polis’ goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 means Colorado now has one of the most ambitious targets in the country.

Locally, Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties are in the process of establishing a Regional Clean Energy Corridor Network to take advantage of the opportunities.

The network concept emerged from a roundtable meeting in December aimed at developing regional approaches to accelerating projects and aligning the interests of local governments, utilities, nonprofits and other stakeholders.

Thursday’s event, titled “Regional Solar Energy Planning: Collaboration, Innovation, Acceleration,” represents the Network’s first action step.

The summit is open to the public. To register, visit CLEER’s website or the Eventbrite page.

According to the press release, the collaborative process will “enable the three counties to benefit from economies of scale, access state funding, pool resources, share best practices and come up with innovative new ideas.”

Advancing solar on a regional scale helps achieve three important goals, organizers said.

The workshop will include staff members and elected officials of local governments and utilities, solar industry representatives and others in the solar development field. NREL staff will lead the session and will provide information about technical resources.