With Lake County solar garden, Breckenridge inches closer to renewable energy goals | AspenTimes.com

With Lake County solar garden, Breckenridge inches closer to renewable energy goals

Eli Pace
Summit Daily

Breckenridge could be plugging into a new solar garden in Lake County.

Town officials made the announcement last week, saying that Breckenridge will become the anchor tenant of a new solar garden planned for Lake County.

Over the phone Monday, Assistant Director of Community Development Mark Truckey, who's been instrumental in Breckenridge's efforts to be more environmentally friendly, detailed the anticipated size of the planned solar garden and what it could mean for the town's power portfolio, clean-energy commitments and its pocketbook.

At 2 megawatts, the new solar garden in Lake County would be a big one at four times the size of either one of Breckenridge's existing 500 kW community solar gardens. Those solar gardens are on the McCain property on the northern end of town and the Stilson property near the Stables, off Wellington Road.

Breckenridge won't get all the power generated by the new solar garden, Truckey said, but as the anchor tenant, the town is expecting to pull 40 percent of the load coming off the new solar array after it's been built.

That equates to 800 kW, or about 1.6 times as much power as the town's currently getting from either one of its existing community solar gardens.

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"Yeah, it's a fair amount," Truckey said of the town's share.

One of the best things about the deal is the way it's structured, he added. Truckey said the town won't have to pay any upfront costs and should actually save some money on its energy bills once the solar garden is up and running.

It won't be a huge amount, Truckey admitted, but the deal should help the town meet its clean-energy commitments, too.

"We're really excited about the opportunity to increase our renewable energy portfolio," Truckey said, explaining that the new solar garden will be a great, low-cost way for Breckenridge to do just that.

In August 2017, Breckenridge Town Council adopted a resolution solidifying the town's commitment to having all town facilities completely powered by renewable resources by 2025. Truckey said they haven't crunched all the numbers yet, but plugging into the Lake County solar garden will certainly feed into the town's efforts to run entirely on clean energy.

"Exactly," Truckey said. "We'll be subscribing to this, and that energy will be powering our town facilities so it's going to be an incremental uptick in the amount of renewable energy for the town."

Having worked with Clean Energy Collective on the town's community solar gardens, Truckey said, the company was well aware of Breckenridge's efforts to go green based on the company's past dealings with the town.

"They knew that we were more than interested in participating in something like this so they reached out to us," he said.

The news was a welcome announcement for Beth Groundwater, who helped push the town's clean-energy goals from a citizen-led campaign. Groundwater said she knew Breckenridge was actively seeking out solar gardens in neighboring counties as one way of meeting those aims.

"Hopefully the developer will make additional panels available to town residents and businesses for purchase, so the entire community can benefit from this clean, renewable and cheap source of electricity," she said, framing the solar garden in Lake County as only one component of a multi-layered approach to meeting the town's renewable-energy commitments.

In addition to committing to having all town facilities powered by renewable resources by 2025, Breckenridge has set its sights on getting all buildings in town, private and public, entirely powered by clean energy by 2035.

Groundwater said other components could be energy-efficiency projects, cooperative renewable-energy arrangements with Xcel Energy and small-scale renewable energy generation on or inside town buildings.

"As a member of the Breckenridge for 100 Percent Renewable Energy Task Force, I also am aware of and helping with town initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint in the transportation arena," Groundwater continued. "These include electric bus purchases, planning an electric vehicle fair for Drive Electric Earth Day in April and making it easy for electric-car owners to get charged-up within Breckenridge or nearby."

Efforts to reach Clean Energy Collective for comment were unsuccessful Monday.

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