Summit County to invest in renewable energy |

Summit County to invest in renewable energy

Bob Berwyn
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Several public buildings in Summit County could be partially powered by renewable energy as soon as next year, local officials said Tuesday during a county commissioner work session.

The county’s building and grounds headquarters in Breckenridge, the community and senior center, the recycling center at the landfill and the Silverthorne Library were all identified as good sites for the installation of small solar photovoltaic systems. That’s according to assistant county manager Scot Vargo, who explained the financial and technical details of the proposal.

The decision to move ahead with the energy project was made after a detailed feasibility study rated the county buildings for suitability on a point system. Other factors included the cost of installation, location and the expected return, including either a one-time rebate from Xcel for smaller (less than 10 kilowatt) systems or a renewable energy credit with a 20-year payback period for medium (10- 100 kilowatt) systems.

Installation will require a subsidy up front, but Vargo said the county expects the systems to pay for themselves during their expected life span, with long-term savings on energy costs.

The funding will come from Measure 1A, a mil levy approved by voters last year to fund open space, wildfire mitigation and the county’s general fund. No specific amount was earmarked for renewable energy, but the ballot measure included language indicating that some of the money would go toward improving energy efficiency of county facilities.

All the targeted buildings have already been subject to energy audits. Energy efficient upgrades for lighting, insulation and for heating and cooling systems are either complete or under way.

In most cases, the systems will only cover a small percentage of the buildings’ total energy use, ranging from 2 percent at the material recovery center to 12 percent at the Silverthorne Library. But for the county’s building and grounds office, the renewable system could account for up to 52 percent of energy needed.

Larger projects being considered down the road include an 18-kilowatt system at the County Commons ($92,700) and a 42-kilowatt system at the medical office building ($210,000). The county is also studying the potential for a small-scale wind turbine, potentially near the landfill, and for geothermal energy.

County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier suggested putting some of the savings into a fund that would pay for future renewable energy projects, while Commissioner Thomas Davidson said the money could be saved to help pay for any future spikes in energy costs.

Part of the selection criteria was based on visibility of the systems, emphasizing the symbolic importance of reducing local reliance on fossil fuels. The installation at the Summit County Community and Senior Center could include interpretive displays to educate people about the systems.