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New parking meters will be powered by the sun

Allyn Harvey

In a town like Aspen, you would be mistaken to expect that an idea like solar-powered parking meters would be accepted without question.

The city of Aspen will finish installing two sun-powered parking meters this week. It will begin an experiment that took some promises from the parking department before it was accepted by Aspen’s residents and their elected officials.

The meters, said city parking manager Tim Ware, are being installed at 200 E. Hopkins, next to Bass Park, and 400 S. Monarch, next to the Prospector Lodge.

They will create several new paid parking spots to make up for parking lost to street work that is part of the Downtown Enhancement Pedestrian Plan. The parking at Bass Park is currently dedicated to residential zone permits and the parking near the Prospector Lodge is reserved for car pools.

The meters work on ambient light, so they should work year-round, Ware said. They are identical to meters that were used without mishap last year in Breckenridge and Telluride.

The meters are manufactured by Schlumberger, a French company. They cost about $9,800, the same as the electric meters cost to buy and install.

“When we bought the meters we’re using now, solar was available, but the panels were huge and had to be suspended eight feet off the ground,” Ware said. They were also unreliable at extremely cold temperatures.

Technological improvements make them more durable and palatable, but Ware said the meters were not embraced with open arms. The controversy comes from their solar panels, which are about the same size as the top of the electric-powered parking meters currently used in town.

Ware said that many people worried that they would look out of place in Aspen’s historical shopping district. So, even if the solar meters work, they probably won’t replace the electric parking meters currently in use downtown.

Ware said that if the meters work well this year, more may be installed as older meters are replaced or new paid parking is established.


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