The Rifle area has been developing into a hotbed of solar-electric energy, and some are now speculating that it might be one of the highest solar-electric producing communities on a per capita basis in the nation.
Officials working on the Rifle Energy Village project were recently updating a document that guides and describes the Energy Village efforts. They added a mention of Rifle's possible status as one of the country's most solar-powered communities.
To date, Rifle has developed more than 4,000 kilowatts of solar electric systems, although the exact total is uncertain.
Rifle city planner Nathan Lindquist said the speculation was prompted last year during the opening of the Clean Energy Collective's community solar garden near the Garfield County Airport.
At the time, Holy Cross Energy CEO Del Worley noted, "I don't know if anyone keeps such statistics, but I have to believe Rifle and the surrounding area has the most or near the most per capita solar generation capacity of any small community in the nation."
Over the years, public and private entities have installed solar arrays that add up to 4,284 kilowatts:
• Rifle water and wastewater facilities, 2.3 megawatts
• Three city of Rifle buildings, 10 kilowatts each, 30 kilowatts total
• Garfield County Fairgrounds Riding Arena, 101 kilowatts
• Rifle Branch Library, 53 kilowatts
• Clean Energy Collective solar garden, 700 kilowatts
• Eagle Springs Organic 1.1 megawatts (planned)
With an official in-city population of 9,172 as of the 2010 census, Rifle's per capita solar capacity is 467 watts per person.
Lindquist noted that the calculation requires a bit of fudging, as the Clean Energy Collective solar garden and the Eagle Springs Organic arrays are outside the city limits. But the solar tally also does not count arrays on private homes and businesses.
Lindquist said Rifle's growth as a solar leader is encouraging.
"I think Rifle recognizes that we have several advantages in being a leader in solar capacity: large amounts of buildable land, a proactive city council and staff, and a sunny climate," Lindquist said. "So we try to be opportunistic."