Rifle solar project touted as statewide campaign begins
Citizen Telegram Editor
An already-approved project to install 425 kilowatts of solar power for city of Rifle facilities is an example of how Colorado can become a leader in solar energy, backers of a statewide effort said Thursday, June 27, at a news conference in Rifle.
Rifle Mayor Jay Miller was on hand to support the “Million Solar Roofs for Colorado” effort proposed by environmental groups.
“Rifle was one of the first to have a compressed natural gas station, we have electric vehicles in our city fleet, and we helped make a solar garden a reality,” he said. “So we’re looking forward to seeing our effort help provide all the power we need at eight of our facilities.”
One of those facilities is the Rifle Police Department, where Sgt. Vaughn Miles said he likes the “creative placement” of solar panels over the department’s southern parking lot for police vehicles.
“It doesn’t impact the view of the community and it doesn’t interfere with anything else,” he said.
The city project is projected to make each site effectively net-zero and save the city approximately $440,000 in energy bills over the life of the project.
An agreement between the city, Martifer Solar, the Sol Haven Fund investment group and Carbondale-based contractor SoL Energy calls for private investors to finance the installation of solar panels, then sell the generated power back to the city at a reduced cost. No city funds would go towards construction.
The city facilities are the Rifle Police Station, City Hall, the Taughenbaugh ball fields at Deerfield Park, and several public works and parks and recreation buildings.
Heather McGregor, administrative manager for Garfield Clean Energy, noted one of the group’s main goals is for the county to obtain 35 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2020.
“With funding from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Garfield Clean Energy coordinated the installation of 83 kilowatts of solar electric on three city buildings and the new library in Rifle,” McGregor said. “We helped local governments arrange power purchase agreements to maximize their solar installations, such as Garfield County’s 101 kilowatt system on the roof of the fairgrounds riding arena, which supplies 150 percent of the riding arena’s annual electricity needs.”
In 2012, a rooftop survey identified more government buildings throughout the county with a high potential for solar installations, she added.
“Of all the communities surveyed, Rifle tops the charts with the potential for 793 kilowatts in solar electric installations,” McGregor said.
More than 240 organizations, businesses and elected officials have endorsed the Million Solar Roofs campaign, which calls for installing the equivalent of a million solar roofs — 3 gigawatts of solar power — by 2030. That would allow Colorado to get 10 percent of its energy from solar, compared to less than 1 percent today.
According to a recent report from Environment Colorado, by 2030, solar power can help Colorado avoid 3.6 million metric tons of global warming pollution and would help protect public health by reducing harmful air pollution from the state’s fossil fuel-fired plants. Meeting the goal would be the equivalent of taking 900,000 vehicles off the road.
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