Mike McKibbin

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September 26, 2012
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Rifle: New king of solar power?

Solar energy could power nearly every city of Rifle facility and operation, if the backers of a solar power purchase agreement with the city are successful.

City Council approved a nonbinding letter of intent to participate in the project, with no city funds involved.

Dan Ferguson of Martifer Solar and Ken Olson of Solar Energy Opportunities, or SOL, of Carbondale explained the project to the council on Sept. 5.

"We would install solar systems on the 12 to 14 sites we've identified to offset 100 percent of your current energy consumption at those sites," Ferguson said. "And at no cost to the city."

Among those sites are the senior center, police station, City Hall, Deerfield Park athletic fields, public works and parks and recreation maintenance buildings.

Martifer is a Portuguese company that specializes in large scale solar installations, with U.S. offices in Denver, Connecticut and California.

Ferguson said the solar system is targeted to save the city 19 percent on its energy bills, with financial incentives from Xcel Energy and the federal government covering nearly all the costs. A 20-year agreement would lock in the city's power purchase rate at .0614 cents per kilowatt hour.

Adding solar arrays can help drop the city's energy demand rate charged by Xcel from $18 or $19 a kilowatt hour to 50 cents, Ferguson noted.

After six years, the city would have the option to buy out Ferguson and Olson, Ferguson said. They would continue to maintain the systems under a negotiated agreement with the city, he added.

The letter of intent allows Ferguson and Olson to secure credits through Xcel and engineer the systems, thanks to a federal grant, Ferguson said.

"Once we have all the approvals, we have one year to install the facilities," Ferguson explained.

A formal contract with the city would also be needed before actual work would begin.

City Governmental Affairs Director Mike Braaten said the towns of Breckenridge and Evans, among others in Colorado, have undertaken similar projects and had very positive results.

Ferguson added his company built the solar array next to the Garfield County Regional Airport outside Rifle.

Councilman Keith Lambert noted the city has a similar solar power purchase agreement at the wastewater treatment plant.

"It's worked very well," he said.

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The Post Independent Updated Sep 26, 2012 06:20PM Published Sep 26, 2012 06:19PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.