After months of analyzing the utility bills and solar energy potential of 14 city-owned buildings in Rifle, the backers of a solar power purchase agreement with the city have identified eight facilities where they say installing solar power makes financial sense.
Those include the Rifle Police Station, City Hall, the Taughenbaugh ball fields at Deerfield Park, and several public works and parks and recreation buildings.
Martifer's proposal requires no out-of-pocket costs from the city and will install solar arrays large enough to make each site effectively "net-zero," or nearly self-sustaining.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, private investors would finance the installation of solar panels on those structures, then sell the generated power back to the city.
"The city would lease out the rooftop space, and they would be able to purchase the power at a discounted rate," said Nick Galesic, vice president of business development for the international solar contractor Martifer Solar.
Martifer is a partner in the project, along with the Sol Haven Fund investment group and Carbondale-based contractor Solar Energy Operators.
City staff estimates Rifle will save approximately 7 percent on power at the eight sites in the first year. There should be additional savings as the cost of conventional power increases, and over the life of the agreement, staff anticipates the city will save $441,658, Assistant City Manager Matt Sturgeon wrote in a memo to the council.
A Martifer representative was scheduled to present a formal power purchase contract to Rifle City Council at its Wednesday, Feb. 6, meeting. If the 20-year agreement is approved, installation of the proposed solar arrays could begin as early as this spring.
"We expect installation to start in late spring or early summer," Sturgeon wrote in an email. "The panels have to be online by March of 2014," for the project to qualify for grants and incentives that make it financially feasible.
The proposed agreement would give the city a fixed power purchase rate of .0707 cents per kilowatt-hour that would rise by 3 percent per year.
Xcel Energy, which supplies electricity to Rifle, is projecting rate increases of 34 percent between 2010 and 2020, so the fixed rates could allow Rifle to hedge against future price increases, Sturgeon noted.
Martifer's analysis found that solar power could cover close to 100 percent of the electrical needs on each of the eight municipal buildings identified, allowing the city to qualify for a new billing structure at those facilities, paying by the kilowatt for extra power instead of a fixed "demand fee."
"We have analyzed each bill, and in this particular case there are several locations where they will be better off going to a different rate structure," said Galesic.
Martifer has completed similar power purchase agreements for municipalities throughout Colorado, including the cities of Aurora and Evans and Lake County.
Under the Rifle agreement, the city would have the option to buy the installed solar capacity from the project partners in 2016.
"The city would purchase arrays if it resulted in an overall expenditure on power that was less than what we will pay Martifer for solar electricity," wrote Sturgeon. "This leaves the door open if solar hardware drops in value."