Pitkin County Open Space board may not take shine to solar | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County Open Space board may not take shine to solar

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – At least two members of the Pitkin County Open and Trails board of trustees apparently take a dim view of solar installations on publicly owned open space.

Board member Hawk Greenway on Thursday suggested the board take a position opposing solar farms on open space and urging advocates of such a use “not to waste their time” looking for solar sites on land owned or placed in conservation by the county open space program.

“I’m with you,” said board member Anne Rickenbaugh.

The issue came up during the portion of the meeting allotted for board member comments. Chairman Tim McFlynn suggested formal action be delayed until all five board members are present and the topic is listed on the board’s agenda, so interested members of the public can participate in the debate. Board members Howie Mallory and Franz Froelicher were absent Thursday.

The potential to use open space for solar facilities came up last week when Paul Spencer of the Carbondale-based Clean Energy Collective came before county commissioners to urge the consideration of potential sites for solar farms in Pitkin County as well as amendments to the land-use code to make the installations feasible.

Commissioners took no action, but agreed to further discuss the matter. A couple of commissioners, however, predicted construction of solar panels on open space would be a tough sell. A change of use on open space parcels requires a public vote, they pointed out.

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The Clean Energy Collective is pursing plans for member-owned solar farms in various locales. The first one is up and operating in El Jebel, on land next to the Mid Valley Metropolitan District’s wastewater treatment facility near Blue Lake.

Nominal land costs are key to making the solar farms work financially, according to Spencer, so government-owned sites are often identified. An installation at the Garfield County Airport is in the works.

The farms are owned by individuals who can’t or don’t want to install a solar project at their own residence. Instead, they invest in a member-owned solar farm someplace else and receive credit on their energy bills. The El Jebel solar array involves 340 solar panels and 13 investors who are Holy Cross Energy customers from around the Roaring Fork Valley, according to Spencer.

The county’s Emma Open Space was identified as a possible site for a solar farm, as was an open space parcel near Snowmass Village, but 9 to 10 acres owned by the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District off Highway 82 could also work, Spencer told commissioners.

The Open Space and Trails board did not set a date for a formal discussion of solar farms.

janet@aspentimes.com