Trial balloon on wind power flies with city council |

Trial balloon on wind power flies with city council

Glenwood Springs City Council member Dan Richardson stuck a finger into the air Thursday and was surprised by the prevailing winds.

Testing the sentiment of fellow council members, Richardson was caught off guard by the amount of interest in boosting the percentage of wind power the city buys each year.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this easy,” Richardson said in an interview after hearing from council members Thursday night.

He would like to see the city obtain 10 percent of the power for its municipal electric system from wind. Currently, 4 percent is wind-generated.

Richardson plans to introduce a measure to increase the city’s use of wind power. While he brought up the issue Thursday, he is holding off on the measure until September because he wanted council to meet at a work session first with Randy Udall of the Community Office of Resource Efficiency, an Aspen-based nonprofit organization that promotes use of renewable energy.

But Richardson may not need Udall to convince council. Council members Dave Merritt, Chris McGovern and Bruce Christensen all expressed an interest in the idea Thursday night, and no one on council expressed any initial reservations.

Wind power costs the city about 33 percent more than power from other sources. Increasing the use of wind power to 10 percent would cost the city about $61,000 per year, city public works director Robin Millyard estimated. Christensen said that’s a minimal amount for the statement the city would be making in using more renewable energy. Richardson said the city spends a total of about $4.5 million on electricity each year.

Millyard said most cities buy no wind power. But he said rates continue to go up for electricity generated from conventional sources. He thinks buying 10 percent wind power is an appropriate goal.

“I believe it’s a really good investment in the technology,” Millyard said.

Richardson occasionally is the subject of good-natured ribbing by other council members for his strongly pro-environmental agenda. But his interests recently led to his hiring by the city of Aspen to a high-profile job leading an initiative to fight global warming.

He also has been spearheading what he has called a Sustainable Cities Initiative in Glenwood Springs, in hopes of finding ways the city can operate in a more environmental fashion. Richardson said that effort has led to the formation of a citizens group called Promoting Environmentally Responsible Communities, and it recently decided that getting Glenwood to buy more wind energy would be a good goal.

He said he decided on the 10 percent goal based on an initiative Colorado voters passed last November requiring utilities to obtain 10 percent of their power from renewable energy.

Richardson said he has long wanted to get Glenwood to obtain more of its energy from renewable sources. His council term is ending this year, and he isn’t running for re-election, so he decided it was time to act.

“I just kind of dawned on me that I don’t have much time left,” he said.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-9515, ext. 516

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