Rifle to take a solar leap forward | AspenTimes.com

Rifle to take a solar leap forward

Heidi Rice
Rifle correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo, ” The city of Rifle announced on Tuesday that it will be home to one of the largest combined solar energy systems in the United States when the project goes online within the next five years.

Two systems of combined municipal photovoltaic solar rollouts are expected to operate at a total of 2.3 megawatts and be deployed over the next 20 years under a solar power services agreement with SunEdison, headquartered in Maryland, North America’s largest solar energy service provider.

A 1.72-megawatt photovoltaic system will go online at the Rifle Regional Wastewater Reclamation Facility ” the slated site of the new wastewater treatment facility ” and the other 0.6 megawatt system at the Colorado River Raw Water Pump Station at the Rifle Pond.

“This will happen at no cost to the residents and there won’t be anything like it in the state,” said Charlie Stevens, utility director for the city of Rifle.

Under the agreement, SunEdison will finance, install and maintain the two systems, which use little to no water in the production of solar energy. The city will purchase the solar electricity at predictable prices over a long-term contract. The city expects to save on utility rates during the 20-year period.

“We actually should see a slight decrease in our electrical bills,” Steven said.

The solar project in part is being driven by the city’s vision to create an “Energy Village” ” a concept that was conceived when the city revamped its master plan in 2004.

“Rifle seeks to offer high visibility for energy companies and other businesses to showcase a commitment to reliable, independent energy and sustainable practices in a notable and vibrant community setting,” the city announced in a press release.

“This solar project demonstrates Rifle will invest in alternative energy strategies. The city of Rifle strongly believes that committing to a forward-thinking strategy regarding resources and distributed energy will allow the city to become a technology and energy showcase.”

Construction of the new solar energy systems began this month and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. In the first 20 years of production, the two zero-emission systems combined will offset more than 152 million pounds of carbon dioxide that would have been emitted during the production of electricity from fossil fuels.

“The city of Rifle is committed to deploying reliable off-grid power,” said Mayor Keith Lambert in the press release. “We’re doing this for our environment, for our residents and for our city’s economic future.”

The program is expected to generate about 20 jobs during construction and two permanent jobs for operations and maintenance when it is completed, Stevens said.