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Growing solar energy for Carbondale

Locations: News Published

By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

Denver based Micro Grid Energy will offset part of Carbondale’s electrical usage with a “solar garden” near Rifle, The Board of Trustees decided on Nov. 28.

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Community Solar Gardens are a product of Colorado’s Amendment 37 which in 2004 set a goal of 30 percent renewable energy by 2020. It allows organizations and municipality to purchase power from an array in the same county or an adjacent one as part of a three way agreement with the electric company.

It’s a little trickier for Carbondale, which is split between electricity providers Xcel and Holy Cross. Micro Grid’s proposal closed a gap on one side of the tracks.

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“We’ve been waiting for something to come on the Xcel side, so this is a great opportunity,” Town Manager Jay Harrington said.

There’s no upfront cost to the town, and with roughly 213 kilowatts of capacity (about 21 percent of the planned Garfield Garden’s output) qualifying for the program, Micro Grid’s Jon Sullivan estimated it would save the town at least $200,000 over 20 years. The agreement also has a clause that means the Town will break even at the very worst.

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“It’s almost a no brainer to start getting solar credits on your bill,” Sullivan said.

Carbondale’s support of the array — approved in a 5-0 vote — could also open the door for large commercial projects to meet solar requirements by buying into the project. Someday, individual homeowners might even be able to participate.

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Trustees make final tweaks in budget process

A few last minute changes were made to the 2018 budget at the Nov. 28 Board of Trustee meeting in advance of its scheduled approval in December.

“We’re trying to firm up the draft so that when it comes up the next meeting you just pass it,” Finance Director Renae Gustine explained.

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Among the adjustments were a excise tax credit for a business which had been improperly charged and an increase in funding for the Environmental Board.

The E-Board’s budget had initially been reduced to $2,000 with a scaled back Dandelion Day in mind, but with new projects on the horizon, the group was hoping for more like $5,000.

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Trustee Heather Henry thought that was fair.

“I like where they’re headed,” she said. “I think they’re going to be working really hard this year to get organized around some appropriate projects in the town.”

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The Board backed the change 5-0.

Additionally, as part of a discussion on Aspen Valley Land Trust’s effort to secure property at the base of Red Hill — and the Town’s corresponding responsibility to construct a new parking area — Trustee Frosty Merriott advocated for the eventual creation of a capital fund. The Board also discussed funding for a new and improved website, which Trustee Ben Bohmfalk particularly characterized as an important step in informing residents.

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Less conclusive was an option not to renew membership in the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. While former Trustee John Hoffman used to attend associated events in Summit County frequently, the COG’s elevator inspection program is the only service still being used, Town Manager Jay Harrington observed.

Staff were instructed to investigate whether the inspections would be available and affordable without membership.

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Town, Fire Department ink understanding

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Acting Mayor Pro Tem, Frosty Merriott characterized an intergovernmental agreement between the Town of Carbondale and Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District as “kind of a win win for everybody” at the Nov. 28 trustee meeting.

Carbondale Fire is a separate special district that, other than some overlap between staff, board and volunteers, is not directly involved with the municipality.

The IGA clarifies authorities and duties for both organizations, particularly with respect to fire code and inspections. It leaves the Town with regulatory authority while the Fire District has input in crafting the code, assists with enforcement and maintains licenses. The organizations would cooperate on arson investigations, with the Fire District taking point in collecting evidence. Both the Town and Carbondale Fire would retain governmental immunity.

The measure passed 5-0 and will take effect as soon as both parties sign it.